Live Coverage of the Washington Ideas Forum, Day I

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Welcome to live coverage of the Washington Ideas Forum, presented by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and the Newseum. We'll have live updates on all the speakers at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., throughout the day in this space, so stay with us or check back frequently. This page will automatically refresh with updates.


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6 p.m.: That's it for the day, folks -- thanks for joining us. We'll be back underway tomorrow morning at 8:45 a.m., starting with MSNBC's Chris Matthews. See you then!

5:56 p.m.: Drummond: "We're in Silicon Valley, so our employees tend to be Democrats, because most people in Northern California are Democrats." But he says the company is not partisan, although it does have values that sometimes involve it in partisan fights.

5:53 p.m.: Kay: About the time "Google" became a verb, the company went from being incapable of doing any wrong in the eyes of the public to suddenly being suspect. Drummond: Like everyone, we've made mistakes, but we largely get it right and I believe we're motivated by doing the right thing. We sometimes sacrifice short-term economic gain to improve user experience.

5:48 p.m.: Kay: Aren't campaigns mining voters rolls and data-targeting very similar to what Google does with its data? Drummond: Yes and no. One major difference is that Google is essentially asking people to offer up their own information so that Google can better serve them, rather than trying to glean information to get them to do something they might not otherwise do, like voting.

5:46 p.m.: What will campaign technology look like in 2016? Drummond says it's too soon to tell, other than assuming it will be a major driver. 

5:42 p.m.: Drummond: The use of technology both by voters and campaigns really did skyrocket since 2008. Four years ago, the stories were about email fundraising and YouTube being a gaffe platform. This time, there's much greater voter usage, from views of videos to Google's voter-information site, which gathered polling place information and other details to help people prepare. That was especially helpful in New York and New Jersey, where the site provided real-time information to voters whose polling places were disrupted by Hurricane Sandy.

5:40 p.m.: Drummond: "Our role is to keep the government honest and make sure they follow their rules. We are willing to push back and have, in the United States and other countries." We often don't even know why law enforcement is looking for information, he notes.

5:38 p.m.: Drummond on the Petraeus scandal, which involves use of Gmail accounts: "It's important that people know a little bit more about how the Internet works before they use it." He points out that email is subject to search warrants and subpoenas.

5:35 p.m.: Up now: Google senior vice president David Drummond, interviewed by the BBC's Katty Kay.

5:34 p.m.: Porter: Apple shows we've got an engine of innovation, but the fact that it doesn't make any of its products in the U.S. tells us something else: that the cost of doing business domestically is still too high.

5:29 p.m.: Clemons: Is there any way for Republicans and Obama to get along? Holtz-Eakin: They don't have to. It's just about how you manage that problem. We need Reaganesque and Clintonesque leadership. Obama needs to say: I'm going to send this bill to Congress. That gives Congress cover to say, "We didn't want to do this, but it's what we were given to work with."

5:22 p.m.: Kimmitt: Where American power was once based on how much nuclear weaponry we could deliver, the new deciding factor is interest rates. We should seek a transatlantic free-trade agreement, as Angela Merkel proposed; the world wants American to succeed, and we need to move confidently.

5:17 p.m.: Steve Case: What we're seeing is that other countries have seen our entrepreneurship and taken up. But that threatens our innovation edge. Clemons asks whether there's really evidence that we're leading, but Case says yes -- the biggest inventions still come from the U.S.

5:16 p.m.: Holtz-Eakin on priorities: "We're going to fight a land war in Asia over little things that will never fix inequality."

5:13 p.m.: Porter: We now have a path to energy independence from shale gas and other technologies. Now we need a way to handle that windfall.

5:09 p.m.: Michael Porter: We all agree on what needs to be done, we just can't get it done. That's true of issues from deficit reduction to immigration reform. Everyone agrees that we need a streamlined, simplified tax code.

5:00 p.m.: Next up: We're talking innovation with Steve Case, co-founder of AOL; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office; Robert Kimmitt, senior international counsel at WilmerHale and former deputy Treasury secretary; and Michael Porter, professor at Harvard Business School. Steve Clemons of The Atlantic is moderating.

4:59 p.m.: Has the administration been too tough on for-profit schools? Gates says the trick is that the metrics being applied to for-profit colleges should be applied more widely, to traditional schools.

4:58 p.m.: Gates: "There's no way if you cut discretionary spending -- I'll tell you your unemployment number. It'll be high, and your economy will be class structured in a major way."

4:55 p.m.: Gates: Everybody will always aspire to a four-year degree at the top-tier institutions. No matter what we do online, that will remain an attraction -- despite the huge prices. What matters is what we do with state schools that educate the vast majority of the country.

4:51 p.m.: Leonhardt plays devil's advocate: Let's not increase involvement if schools aren't working; let's just make sure people get the education they personally need. He points out that some people -- such as Gates -- have done fine without a college degree. Gates: Sure, some kids do well with just a two-year degree. Dynamic community colleges can react to local needs, and that's great. But there will be decreasing employability of those with only a high-school degree, no matter how much we improve K-12 education.

4:47 p.m.: Leonhardt: Is the trick just to inject more competition? Gates: Yes, but not like in restaurants, where some go out of business and others become large chains. Accreditation creates huge barriers to entry. What we'll see is market share shifting among existing institutions. University presidents will have to act entrepreneurially  they are today, but they're driven by the wrong metrics. Science departments compete for students already, so that's a model. But outside of that, students are spending too little time in the classroom and on out-of-class work. "If we come up with metrics, people will compete," Gates says. "They want to do the right thing."

4:42 p.m.: Gates: There's simply not enough awareness of how bad graduation rates are at some schools. He says that giving schools letter grades was tough medicine but raised awareness; maybe colleges and universities need something like that. Once students are in, things get easier; U.S. students spend less classroom time than students in other developed countries. The big problem: Schools invest in facilities like dorms and dining halls to attract students, but they don't invest in teaching.

4:40 p.m.: Leonhardt: How should we measure schools: only give money for those who graduate students? Or just those whose graduates get jobs? Gates: We have to look at granular data, rather than using sweeping standards, but exclusivity is not the answer. Peer pressure among institutions could be a potent tool, and you could see a "meaningful" increase in graduation rates quickly.

4:38 p.m.: With new tech programs, "We are seeing in pilot cases significant improvement at current levels of spending," Gates says.

4:36 p.m.: Gates' presentation is over; now Leonhardt is up interviewing him.

4:33 p.m.: Cutting is not the answer, Gates says. Pell Grants are in serious danger due to fiscal restraints. He says we should reward those two take the worst SAT scorers and educate them, rather than rewarding schools that compete for the smartest students out of high school. And schools need to look at technology more, potentially reducing large lectures, personalizing lessons, and hybridizing online and in-person education, especially to engage less motivated students.

4:32 p.m.: The U.S. trails 12 countries worldwide in college graduates, and we're not producing enough graduates to fill jobs. Meanwhile, large minorities of those who receive Pell Grants never complete their degrees.

4:30 p.m.: For most people at state institutions, borrowing levels for education aren't worrisome, Gates says -- but if they grow much, they'll reach a level where debts are simply never going to be paid. Meanwhile, only 58 percent of four-year degree seekers graduate within six years; and it's only 36 percent for two-year degrees.

4:25 p.m.: Unemployment for those with a professional degree is 2.4 percent. Even for BA holders, it's 4.9 percent. There are many open jobs, and there are any job seekers, but "it's the job of the education system to equilibrate that," Gates says. But even as college enrollment goes up and up, states are spending less and less on education. As a result, tuition has increased significantly.

4:24 p.m.: Gates: "Other countries have noticed that we do this well and they've adopted the most successful elements of our higher education system. And so in some ways they've moved ahead."

4:23 p.m.: Gates is talking education. He notes that most of his foundation's work in the U.S. is in education, both K-12 and higher education, saying it's crucial for fighting inequality and driving economic growth.

4:16 p.m.: Next up: Bill Gates will speak, then be interviewed by David Leonhardt, Washington bureau chief of The New York Times.

4:15 p.m.: How does a spy manage to hide these days? Coffey points to how quickly alleged Israeli agents who assassinated a Hamas leader in Dubai were identified. Crumpton says it's all about relationships and communication, not wigs and glasses.

4:06 p.m.: Crumpton says drones are "incredibly precise" -- an argument not all critics accept -- but he worries about overreliance on them, particularly when twinned with thin human intelligence and contacts on the ground.

4:03 p.m. First U.S. intelligence teams entered Afghanistan in 1999 to start building relationships, so when 9/11 happened, we knew who our friends were, Crumpton says.

4:01 p.m.: Next up: Ambassador Henry Crumpton, former CIA agent and "the godfather of drones," interviewed by Shelby Coffey, creator of the Newseum.

4 p.m. Mossberg: Why is Internet still more expensive in the U.S. than in our competitors in Europe, and why haven't you fixed it? Genachowski hedges, and says they're working on it, but admits his own bill is going up. It's a work in progress.

3:53 p.m.: Genachowski: "We need more substantive engagement from CEOs." Mossberg: Like what? Genachowski: "I mean rolling up sleeves and getting involved with people in government." That is to say, lobbying isn't enough, he says.

3:48 p.m.: Genachowski: We need a new generation of spectrum innovations that are as big as the one that brought us WiFi.

3:47 p.m.: Genachowski: America fell behind Europe on 3G, but leads of 4G. And most mobile systems now run on American-made operating systems (a phenomenon that Mossberg points out is largely due to the collapse of Finland's Nokia and Canada's RIM).

3:43 p.m.: Genachowski: Four years ago, if you'd mentioned the word "broadband" to people in Washington, most people didn't know what it was. That's a problem for our future, but I think we've made progress.

3:40 p.m.: Next up: The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg interviews Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski.

3:39 p.m.: How are the last two Democratic presidents different? Maraniss says Clinton was a continual reinventor: at every stage, he just came up with what he needed to do every day. Obama, on the other hand, was on a methodical search for how to resolve the identity questions he faced from a young age. In both cases, those impulses drove them to the White House; in both cases, they could be hobbling. "It got Clinton into trouble in the White House, it got him out of trouble."

3:35 p.m.: We have a consensus among all four biographers on stage: The word "narrative" has been bitterly abused.

3:33 p.m.: Isaacson: What does Obama have to do to be a great president, then? Maraniss: Well, winning was essential to protecting health care. Climate change seems like a strong contender in the last two years. But the fiscal "grand bargain" and immigration reform are likely to take up much of the next two years.

3:30 p.m.: Maraniss: Clinton's second term was about surviving. Obama's second term will be about trying to avoid the potholes between himself and greatness.

3:25 p.m.: Suskind and Alter agree that Obama is basically a centrist and a pragmatist. Suskind says Obama often sends up trial balloons from the left -- Rooseveltian stuff like a financial transaction tax -- but often ends up in a centrist position. The question, he says, is how Obama will react now that he's won reelection and doesn't face another race. He says Obama has learned how to use presidential power much better since Suskind's damning book Confidence Men was published.

3:21 p.m.: Isaacson: I used to think that talk radio and Fox News were really helping the Republican Party, but now I think perhaps they're actually hurting the party.

3:18 p.m.: Jon Alter: "There was a concerted effort to destroy [Obama] for the purposes of regaining political power ... What was surprising was how far it moved into the mainstream, where you could hear it on the floor of Congress or in board rooms."

3:16 p.m.: Next up: Obama biographers Ron Suskind, David Maraniss, and Jonathan Alter, interviewed by Walter Isaacson.

3:15 p.m.: Klobuchar on the Democrats: "The biggest thing on our side is to acknowledge that there are going to have to be cuts." She says there may be odd alliances, noting that she and Al Franken voted for the Budget Control Act, while elsewhere in the Minnesota delegation, liberal Democrat Keith Ellison and conservative Republican Michele Bachmann voted against.

3:13 p.m.: Klobuchar professes optimism about the future of the country, as well as the government's ability to govern: "We're actually making stuff in America now. We're exporting stuff. We're inventing things."

3:07 p.m.: Klobuchar on tax rates: "I look at this in a very simple way: I want to bring the debt down." The point, she says, is that higher marginal tax rates are simply the most reasonable way to bring in revenue. "Both sides are going  to realize that it has to add up, it can't just be talking points on TV."

3:03 p.m.: Klobuchar mentions that women tend to be extremely numerically adept, quoting a quip that women in politics "speak softly and carry a big statistic." And she says that the many of the most successful pushes during the deadlocked last year have been led by female legislators. She says women tend to work across the aisle.

2:59 p.m.: Klobuchar on the record 20 female senators in the next Congress: "For the first time in history, we had a traffic jam in the women's senators' bathroom." She says Senate women have a regular meeting in the Strom Thurmond Room, an amusing juxtaposition.

2:58 p.m.: Next up: The BBC's Katty Kay interviews Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

2:56 p.m.: Do you have more or less hope for bipartisan compromise in Washington? Frank: I think reality is going to get better, and that will help. But he also notes that 2007-2008 saw serious bipartisan work in Congress, especially in responding to the financial crisis. It's not a relic of a dim and distant past, he says. There's less of the anger in the country that fueled both the Tea Party and Occupy.

2:53 p.m.: How will history judge the bailouts? Frank: "As the most highly successful, most unpopular policy in the history of the nation." The money's been paid back, it stabilized the nation, even though people still hate TARP. Pushed by Sorkin, he admits that Democrats were among the most prominent pitchfork-wielders in responding to bonuses at AIG.

2:52 p.m.: Frank to Sorkin: "You guys must be so disconnected from what's going in on the real world!" He blasts people who say that Dodd-Frank didn't end "too big to fail," ridiculing the notion that the Treasury secretary would break federal law to bail out an institution. The political risk would be too big anyway, Frank adds.

2:50 p.m.: Frank: Do they really expect Congress to deal with people like Tim Pawlenty, the new head of the bank lobby, after they demonized us?

2:48 p.m.: Frank: "We substantially hurt the feelings" of Wall Street with threats of tax increases. That's the only impact, he says -- the scale of proposed tax increases is so small fall they wouldn't even notice unless their accountant told them, he adds.

2:47 p.m.: Frank on the fiscal cliff, and the Bush tax cuts vs. sequestration: "Sequestration is a terrible idea, and that can be very disruptive. If taxes went up on everyone for a month or two, that would slow expansion, but you could undo it."

2:45 p.m.: Frank isn't buying the deduction limit. He says, for example, that limiting the deduction could harm middle-income families who want to buy a house. It's cases like that that make it hard to simply say you'll close deductions and move on.

2:42 p.m.: Frank: If a deficit of 500,000 votes gave Bush a mandate to cut taxes, Obama's 3.3 million-vote surplus ought to give him a mandate to repeal the cuts.

2:42 p.m.: Frank: Do House Republicans recognize that they will pay a price for intransigence? Before, there was a political logic, but that's no longer the case. He calls GOP cutting strategy "untenable" and demands to know specifics of what loopholes they would close.

2:39 p.m.: Frank: Having argued for years that my sex life was not the public's business, I extend the same courtesy to General Petraeus and General Allen. He says he's confused about why two intelligent men would send embarrassing emails -- never write it down! But there's no public-policy relevance, he says.

2:38 p.m.: Next up: Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times and CNBC interviews Rep. Barney Frank.

2:37 p.m.: What will our politics look like two, three, four cycles down the road? Burton: Super PACs are going to be most important in primaries. Potter: What we're going to see is that every House and Senate candidate will have their own super PAC. "You're going to have these enormous sums that in Watergate were corrupting -- they're going to be routine even in average House races if we keep going down this road."

2:33 p.m.: Bennet: "There's a self-hating quality to people in [the campaign-finance] system."

2:30 p.m.: What's the future of Priorities USA? Burton says they're still discussing. They have a brand and a donor base, and Crossroads GPS isn't going away ... so he basically implies it's hanging around. Potter responds: There we go -- super PACs will just turn into lobbying organizations, or as "soft money shadow groups for the party committees."

2:29 p.m.: Potter: The fact that the president can escape blame for Priorities USA's ad is everything that's wrong about super PACs.

2:27 p.m.: Bennet asks Burton about the Priorities USA ad that connected a woman's death to Mitt Romney through Bain Capital, and which John McCain criticized earlier today. Does he regret that or any other ad, and was their confusion about what came from the campaign vs. from the super PAC? Burton stands by it, says it was important to talk about Bain, and important to talk about it in a way that the campaign couldn't.

2:23 p.m.: Potter says he thinks the election probably shone a negative light on super PACs. Most importantly, it showed that they don't function as the Supreme Court expected -- e.g., candidates fundraised for them, and they're clearly an extension of existing political parties and structures.

2:21 p.m.: Bennet: "Bill, you run a super PAC. Do you think they're good for America?" Burton: "No."

2:21 p.m.: Blame the campaign, not Karl Rove! Burton says pro-Romney super PACs were hobbled by Romney's lack of a clear storyline. It was hard for them to know how to run ads that would reinforce his message when he didn't have one.

2:20 p.m.: Bennet: We're hearing that big donors like Sheldon Adelson didn't get much bang for their buck. So did super PACs not matter? Potter says it's too soon to tell. Democratic super PACs like Priorities had a good day; and while big GOP super PACs may have had bad returns, those donations likely won major access to the upper echelons of the Republican Party for their donors.

2:17 p.m.: Burton: We spent most of our money, though we had to save some to pay the lawyers. Potter grins and nods.

2:10 p.m.: Next up, we've got Bill Burton, from the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, and Trevor Potter, a campaign finance lawyer and reform advocate. They're being interviewed by Atlantic Editor-in-Chief James Bennet. Don't miss Bennet's October cover story on the Citizens United decision and its effects.

2:06 p.m.: Madden: Romney told me before November 6 that he was excited to win and enact his plans, but that if he lost that was OK, because he could go on with his life. A book based on his journal is also probably likely. 

2:05 p.m.: How did Romney prep for the debates? Madden: I've always thought if I could get the governor into everybody's living room, he'd win them over and march to victory. That's what the first debate was for us. But prep sessions didn't go that well; Portman put him on the defensive over and over.

2:03 p.m.: What was it like after Obama's poor performance in the first debate? Psaki: "As someone who has asked on and off for him for six years, the first debate was important for us, and probably a defining event. It reminded us of when we lost New Hampshire in 2008": A shock that jolted them out of complacency.

2:00 p.m.: Dickerson asks Madden about the apparent shock that Romney's campaign received from Democratic turnout. Madden basically says they looked at the past and were basing their models on the past. There's a lot of talk about the electorate changing, he says, but the Obama campaign ought to get more credit for changing the electorate -- they made that happen, and it wasn't a passive process.

1:58 p.m.: When did Twitter and new media just totally miss the big story that was going on? Psaki: Obama's DNC speech was intended to be calm and reassuring, while offering a plan -- not to be a barnburner. Analysis suggested the speech was a disaster, but Obama campaign was seeing positive reaction in focus groups, despite pundit blowback.

1:56 p.m.: Twitter levels 55-year-olds and 23-year-olds, but the perspective of older journalists can get lost, Psaki says.

1:55 p.m.: What was the one thing to watch? Psaki: "In terms of media, there's still huge power in television. Local television, national television .... There's a Twitter strategy around every debate, every day." The challenge was to not be distracted but to focus on message, she says. Madden: Social media are like a symphony; if everyone's not playing together, your message won't come through and get across. Psaki says Twitter is "a shiny ball that people chase.... a snowball that you have to deal with and you can't deal with something else." In other words: Twitter is where the agenda is set, even for the campaigns -- whether they like it or not.

1:53 p.m.: Madden says it was helpful for him to be able to see at a glance what everyone -- partisan media on both sides, mainstream media, and others -- were saying, thanks to Twitter.

1:49 p.m.: How was 2012 different from 2008? Psaki: "This campaign was harder fought. There wasn't a wave at the end." She says "a very, very senior administration official" compared the 2008 campaign to the first flush of a relationship, the 2012 one more like an old married couple. Kevin Madden: Everything was much faster this time. He says he signed up for Facebook for the first time four years ago; Twitter wasn't even a concern. This year, "so much of what we did was driven from the bottom up," from Twitter.

1:45 p.m.: And we're back! We've torn ourselves away, with some difficulty, from President Obama's press conference, and we're back with Jen Psaki, from his campaign, and Kevin Madden, from Romney's.

12:43 p.m.: We'll be back around 1:45 p.m., where Jen Psaki, an Obama campaign press secretary, and Kevin Madden, a Romney campaign spokesman, will talk in a discussion moderated by John Dickerson of Slate and CBS. Also on the agenda for the afternoon: Barney Frank, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Bill Gates, and more. See you then!

12:41 p.m.: Andres criticizes the international aid regime, and says we need smarter aid. For example, the U.S. gave huge amounts of food to Haiti following the earthquake there. While that feeds people in the short term, it puts local farmers out of business in the longer term and leads to greater hunger down the line.

12:35 p.m.: Kummer asks Andres: How do you offer good food at your restaurants at low price -- if you do? Andres replies that his meals range from $400 to $8 (Minibar is "cheap for what it is," he adds). He praises local markets, but says the prices are simply too large for local fruits and vegetables to be feasible on a large scale. Again, he says, it's a policy question. Guaranteeing local supply of food, rather than centralizing it highly, is also a national-security issue, he adds -- a highly centralized supply means that a catastrophe such as a hurricane can create huge shortages.

12:33 p.m.: Kass, who has a fairly important boss, has to take off, but Andres is sticking around for a bit.

12:29 p.m.: Andres -- replying to what he says Kass' liberal Democratic rhetoric -- is on a riff about the conservative case for healthy food. There's nothing wrong with the success of Coke or McDonald's he says. But the government should not be tilting the scales toward those big companies through major subsidies in the farm bill. "If we subsidize, let's subsidize everything. And if not, let's level down the field." Kass: "I don't think that's a Republican or a Democratic view," but agrees with it.

12:22 p.m.: Andres is impassioned about the importance of the farm bill, and suggests that a smart policy is basically preventative medicine, because healthy Americans won't need as much spending on health care.

12:20 p.m.: "When we walk into a school in the white coats, we're like rock stars," Kass cracks, talking about "Chefs Move to Schools," the program to send chefs into schools. The idea is to help children want to eat healthy foods, rather than making it feel like an imposition.

12:16 p.m. It's good news that there's an increasingly large number of farmer's markets, Jose Andres says, but far too often quality produce straight from farms isn't affordable for most Americans. That's a problem that must be solved, through a congressional farm bill, for example.

12:15 p.m.: Kass: "If people have to work really hard to be healthy, we're not going to make it. We're trying to make the healthiest choice the easy choice."

12:12 p.m.: It's not just eating -- it's physical exercise, too. Kass says mayors are important because they can do things like ensure there are safe sidewalks, which has a serious impact on how much citizens walk.

12:07 p.m.: "This is not an issue the government can do that much on. The effort is going to have to come from the American people," Kass says. He praises companies that are reducing prices on healthier options -- better bread, for example, has long been more expensive not because it costs more to produce, but because retailers know that shoppers will pay a premium for it.

12:05 p.m.: The first lady's Let's Move program has been somewhat overshadowed by the election season. So where does it stand today, Kummer asks? Kass paints healthy eating as a national security issue -- obesity is the number one reason for military-service disqualification -- and an economic one, because so much productivity is lost to illness and medical costs. "It's really critical to understand what's at stake."

12:00 p.m.: Sam Kass, an assistant White House chef who also advises Michelle Obama on policy, and D.C. superstar chef Jose Andres are now on stage with Atlantic senior editor and James Beard Writing Award-winner Corby Kummer.

11:40 a.m: We'll take a brief break for lunch and be back in just a few minutes with White House chef Sam Kass and Chef Jose Andres.

11:37 a.m.: One major benefit of reaching a fiscal cliff deal would be showing the American people, the world, and our legislators themselves that it's possible to reach bipartisan deals, Bennet says. "We need a politics that's worthy of the place we all call home." Raddatz calls that "rosy" and asks whether Bennet can really be that optimistic; he insists he is.

11:35 a.m.: Why does education matter so much, asks Bennet? The former Denver schools superintendent points out that the unemployment rate for college graduates barely topped 4 percent at its worst, but the odds of a poor child getting a diploma are extremely low.
 Washington Ideas Forum Conversations with leading newsmakers. A special report

11:33 a.m.: If Obama and Boehner can reach a deal on the fiscal cliff, there will be broad bipartisan support in the Senate for it, Bennet predicts. And he says that getting a deal is more important than the details of what it is. But Raddatz points out that the initial negotiating positions are extremely far apart: How will they be bridged? Bennet has "every confidence that the president and the speaker want to get this done." He says Obama's margin of victory does in fact show that he has a mandate. But political mandate or not, he says voters rejected Ryan's "unbalanced" budget plan.

11:31 a.m.: "I actually don't think people are that divided on the big questions  The fact that there was a disagreement in this election doesn't lead people to the conclusion that we should fight for the death." Instead, it shows that voters want principled compromise, Bennet says.

11:29 a.m.: One major takeaway from the election: "We were able to overcome all this unaccountable money as a result of Citizens United."

11:27 a.m.: Bennet on the Petraeus affair: "I was looking forward to a period free of cable TV after the election," but he says it's important to focus on more serious issues. Contra McCain and Graham below, Bennet says Rice deserves a full hearing in the Senate, then pivots to criticize Senate Republicans who have blocked debate and threatened filibuster on Obama appointees. "If he nominates her, we ought to debate her and we ought not to have a filibuster," Bennet says.

11:25 a.m.: Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado is up with Martha Raddatz (standard disclosure: Bennet's brother James is editor-in-chief of The Atlantic).

11:23 a.m.: "The spillover effect on state education systems would be catastrophic" from the fiscal cliff, Markell says. Klein says we don't even need to look forward to see what will happen if budgets are cut: Just look at California's once mighty and now cash-strapped university system.

11:20 a.m.: Criticizing standardized tests per se misses the point, Markell says. It's just as important to consider how we use the data we get from those tests. Klein adds that we need a better trained, more professional teaching corps. If half of America's lawyers or doctors quit within a few years, as teachers do, the country would be in a panic. That's the lesson of highly successful foreign systems like Finland's, he says.

11:18 a.m.: "The biggest challenge, I believe, is the American public does not yet understand" that U.S. education can't keep up if it doesn't change, Markell says. Just knowing what their parents did will lead to children being deemed not proficient. It's like practicing basketball on an 8-foot basket, he says: You can get good at making hoops, but you'll be killed in a game.

11:15 a.m.: In Delaware, Markell says he has pushed schools where students are learning standards subjects -- such as science in math -- in Chinese and Spanish. The key to getting those schools approved was to couch them as an economic asset rather than an educational asset.

11:11 a.m.: How is this election consequential for education? "There probably wasn't as much conversation in the election as I wish there had been," Markell says. But competing in a global marketplace requires strong education, he says. Klein, for his part, was "disappointed but not surprised" by the dearth of discussion of schools, saying that good education is crucial to solving all of America's other domestic problems.

11:08 a.m.: Next up: education. Former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell will be interviewed by NPR's Michele Norris.

11:04 a.m.: As a matter of politics, isn't a Rice confirmation a done deal? Graham says he thinks there might be at least one Democrat who'd vote against her, but dodges the question of whether the five necessary Republicans would defect to allow her confirmation.

11:02 a.m.: Karl pushes back: Isn't this an intelligence failure? Wasn't Rice just saying what the DNI believed? But McCain isn't buying. He says it's simply not credible that the administration believed that what happened in Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration.

11:00 a.m.: Graham bolsters his critique of the Obama team by pointing out that he and McCain were major critics of the Bush Administration. But he says the current White House is as feckless in Libya as Bush was in Iraq. As to Rice, "I don't trust her," Graham says. Either she didn't know the truth, in which case she shouldn't have been on TV; if she did, she was lying, he says. Graham says he defers to the president, and voted for Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, but that the scale of the Benghazi debacle is too great.

10:57 a.m.: Is current UN Ambassador Susan Rice disqualified from being secretary of state because of her handling of Benghazi? McCain says, bluntly, yes -- and says he'd filibuster to prevent her confirmation, which would be an unusual move.

10:54 a.m.: McCain: "What did the president know, when did he know it, and when did he do about it?" McCain says the Benghazi scandal is like Watergate and Iran-Contra, but with four American deaths. Graham says the chaos is the fruit of the Obama Administration's decision to "lead from behind" on the Arab Spring, which he says relies more on wishful thinking than smart policymaking. McCain describes conversations with slain Ambassador Chris Stevens and says Stevens told him he was in "constant communication" with Washington.

10:51 a.m.: Graham wants to know if Obama was aware of a springtime attack on the consulate in Benghazi -- and suggests that it's impossible he did not. In either case, the president bears responsibility. And on Petraeus, he questions the FBI's investigation of the Petraeus question, saying only a select committee can answer all the questions the Senate might have.

10:48 a.m.: We're on to Petraeus. McCain says he's spoken with the former general. And he says that "like a good solider," Petraeus left his job -- actually taking responsibility -- which McCain says was the right thing to do. But he hopes that Petraeus may yet serve the nation in another capacity. Karl tries to get the senators to question the Obama Administration's stated timeline for when the president and DNI found out about the scandal, but Graham demurs and pivot to Benghazi, calling for a streamlined oversight process for the intelligence community.

10:47 a.m.: "We're still a right of center nation," Graham says. "If you couldn't see this coming as a Republican  you're not looking out very well. We're going in the wrong direction." Among the big problems are alienating Hispanics with immigration rhetoric. He points to socially conservative views on abortion, for example, among Hispanics and blacks. Obama should have lost the election based on job performance, but the GOP just did too much to shoot itself in the foot, Graham says. "Once you have the immigration issue off the table," he says, there's a chance to reconnect with Hispanics. Furthermore, the GOP must start recruiting African-American candidates.

10:44 a.m.: McCain offers rather grudging admiration for the Obama campaign in 2012, though he has harsh words for negative advertising. Moreover, he says, the GOP has to grapple with its demographic challenges. "We're going to have to understand the changing ... ideas and thoughts and ambitions of newer generations," he says. The Senate must take up immigration reform immediately, although it's no panacea to win the Republicans Hispanic support.

10:43 a.m.: Graham: "How do you get $16 trillion in debt? Both parties working together for a long time. I will not raise tax rates, because I think that hurts job creation," Graham says, but it makes sense to increase revenues elsewhere, even if it breaks the Norquist pledge. He says that's essential to give Democrats cover with groups like the AARP to do entitlement reform.

10:40 a.m.: "Grover Norquist was broken when Tom Coburn achieved the goal of reducing subsidies for ethanol," McCain says -- though he won't say that Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge is dead.

10:36 a.m.: Karl starts off with a blunt question: If there was a mandate for anything the president has a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy, doesn't he? McCain basically rejects the idea, embracing the Romney plan from the campaign: No rate raise, but an increase in revenues by closing loopholes and reducing deductions. Graham says the GOP has no mandate, but that Obama cannot overreach. Both senators point to Simpson-Bowles as the answer. "I know of no one who says we should not use it," McCain says, which seems to be a stretch.

10:29 a.m.: And now, some foreign policy. Up next, Jonathan Karl of ABC will moderate a discussion with Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain.

10:28 a.m.: Summers says he was more pessimistic about the economy than much of the administration early on, but that the Obama team was right to make a forecast that tracked the consensus rather than using Summers' assertions.

10:26 a.m.: "America's housing market has been held hostage by narrow-minded policies" from Ed DeMarco of the FHFA, Summers says. It ought to be easy for a middle-income family to get a mortgage today, he says, and yet the reality is the opposite.

10:25 a.m.: Did the Obama Administration err in not addressing housing more directly? Summers says no, but admits that if they had, it would have been vis-a-vis the level of mortgage debt. Obviously it would be desirable to have less debt, Summers says, but the challenge was to avoid an epidemic of mortgage non-payment among those who were underwater but paying, and who would have wanted to take advantage of any debt-reduction program.

10:22 a.m.: The eligibility age for Medicare should not be raised, Summers says. "Everyone wants to dump on government," but Medicare and Social Security have much lower overhead that private pension plans and 401(k)s, so if you think it's better to put money toward health, don't raise the age.

10:20 a.m.: Hunt brings up Medicare, which Summers places in a larger context: "To address Medicare in an effective way, you have to adress the broad spectrum of heath costs.: That includes malpractice suits, he says, as well as letting lesser-credentialed workers do tasks they're capable of. "I am more rational than the average guy," Summers says, but when he was grievously ill he was in no way prepared to shop around for generic drugs or cheaper surgery. The point, he says, is that the market alone isn't enough to solve our health cost problems. The trick is to reward doctors for outcomes.

10:14 a.m.: Summers is on a roll, noting how much higher tax rates were during previous Republican administrations, including "that fire-breathing liberal Dwight Eisenhower." "It's gotta say something that Bill Kristol has said, what exactly is the point of the Republican Party tying itself to the mast on not raising taxes for millionaires"?

10:13 a.m.: Capitals gains taxes should be increased, though the level is up for debate, he says. It makes sense to make it lower than ordinary income, though.

10:10 a.m.: Would a cap on tax deductions be a good deal? Summers says base-broadening is "the right thing to do," but the Obama formula of 28 percent might not be right. "There isn't actually that much base to broaden, and some of the things you do -- like limiting the charitable deduction" os very unpopular.

10:04 a.m.: What percentage would Summers envision spending and revenues being of GDP in 10 years? "I think there is a conventional idea that you can use 20 percent of GDP or 19 percent of GDP as a basis for judging what the right size of government is going forward. I think that's a mistake for three reasons," he says. Those are an aging population, a much larger debt, and serious price changes -- e.g., TVs are much cheaper, but a diploma is much more expensive.

10:02 a.m.: Summers says demand in the U.S. is key, especially with regards to the global view. "Japan is looking soft. China is looking increasingly like Japan did in the early 1990s, like it's going to have to go through some difficult adjustments." In other words: China could be looking at a "lost decade."

10:01 a.m.: Hunt notes that Summers is willing to consider "unsatisfactory" choices with regards to spending, but not taxes.

9:58 a.m.: Hunt asks Summers about how the Bush tax cuts should interact with sequester -- should sequestration be postponed? -- but Summers demurs: The important thing is extending middle-class tax cuts and increasing taxes on the wealthy. Hunt asks again, and Summers again dismisses the question as a "hypothetical."

9:54 a.m.: Summers starts off with a question about the fiscal cliff, the results of which he predicts would be dire. "Almost any formula that gets us through this is better than gong over the fiscal cliff," he says, but adds that it's important to make sure that policy promotes demand through stimulus like the payroll tax cut. "There is no risk that we will have too much demand in the economy."
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David A. Graham

David Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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