Live Coverage of the Washington Ideas Forum, Day II

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Welcome back to live coverage of the Washington Ideas Forum, presented by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and the Newseum. We'll have updates and quotes from each of today's forums live at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. This page will automatically refresh with updates. And don't miss full coverage of Wednesday's panels and speakers here.


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12:39 p.m.: And that's a wrap. Thanks for joining us for the fourth annual Washington Ideas Forum. Check out our full coverage of the forum here. See you next year!

12:37 p.m.: Clemons closes with a question: What can we learn from this incident that can make the world a better place? Todd: I hope that Obama and Boehner use this as a smoke screen to get a fiscal-cliff deal. Carlson: The idea that the generals are always pushing around presidents may be dead and civilians will be back in charge. Corn: The lesson is to never invite the FBI into your live unless you have no choice -- just ask Jill Kelley.

12:31 p.m.: Todd: What we learned from Benghazi is that post-9/11 intelligence reform failed. Clearly, there are still major communication issues within the community that are not resolved, and the creation of a director of national intelligence hasn't helped.
 Washington Ideas Forum Conversations with leading newsmakers. A special report

12:29 p.m.: Corn: It's quite clear that Republicans want to find an angle in, now that they've been rejected by voters. That's why they want Benghazi to be a scandal so badly, but it's too soon to tell whether they can push through an investigation.

12:26 p.m.: Corn: Petraeus might have been able to survive the scandal if he hadn't been built up as such a superhero by the press.

12:24 p.m.: Hastings: "Afghanistan isn't just the graveyard of empires, it's the graveyard of careers": McChrystal, Petraeus, Allen, etc.

12:23 p.m.: Hastings: I don't view generals as sinister per se "though sometimes I'll deploy that language for effect." His indictment, essentially, is that these guys are PR savvy: They don't want journalists to see everything, just the good stuff.

12:21 p.m.: Carlson: We need to get over affairs. This is a problem for David and Holly Petraeus, but no threat to the country.

12:18 p.m.: Up now: A panel on l'affaire Petraeus featuring Margaret Carlson; BuzzFeed's Michael Hastings; David Corn of Mother Jones; and Steve Clemons. 

12:15 a.m.: Norquist: Bills need to be posted online for seven days so everyone can read them. Todd fires back: So special interests can read them and object to everything? This is a republic, not a democracy.

12:12 p.m.: Todd: "We just had an election where the entire discussion was about taxation. How is it that he did not win the debate on taxes?" Norquist says he didn't, and says that Obama only won by telling voters that Romney would raises taxes on the middle class.

12:09 p.m.: Norquist: Don't look at the deficit; that's the wrong way to look at our fiscal issues. It's all about spending. 

12:07 p.m.: Todd: "Are you ever in favor of an emergency tax increase?" Norquist: Allowing the tax cuts to expire is obviously the same as raising taxes, since the ultimate tax bill will be larger. Once we tax the rich and realize we still have a deficit, the middle class will be next, Norquist says, calling it "trickle-down taxation."

12:06 p.m.: Now Todd and Norquist are arguing, inconclusively, about the validity of so-called "dynamic scoring" of economic plans, which the CBO rejects but Republicans say ought to be considered.

12:04 p.m.: Do you support Boehner for speaker, even though he signaled an openness to new revenue? Norquist says yes.

12:03 p.m.: Todd: Haven't the voters spoken in favor of raising taxes, based on exit polls? Norquist says that people remain worried that once Congress raises taxes on the wealthy, the middle class is next. He cites the tax on millionaires' long-distance phone calls that was levied to fight the Spanish-American War, and says now we all pay that tax, 100 years later.

12 p.m.: Todd: Are you the man standing between me and my holiday vacation because of the fiscal cliff? Would Republicans be more likely to cut a deal if not for your pledge? Norquist: "No." He seeks to clarify that his pledge only condemns net tax increases.

11:58 a.m.: Next up: Chuck Todd interviews anti-tax campaigner Grover Norquist.

11:55 a.m.: Emanuel: We need to change laws involving hospice and palliative care for Medicare. Today it's based on six months before death; it needs to be needs-based, rather than time-based. "Let me say again: This is not a death panel."

11:53 a.m.: Emanuel: "We'd like our doctors and nurses to be able to talk to us about end-of-life care. As an oncologist, let me tell you, that's not always easy." He points out that doctors don't get any training on how to talk about end of life, and says that needs to change.

11:48 a.m.: Emanuel: The area we need to focus on is chronic illnesses, which take two-thirds of our health-care dollars. We need to improve both quality of care and quality of outcomes.

11:42 a.m.: Emanuel: If you want to see where health care is going, look at Massachusetts' online market for insurance. In contrast to trying to choose once you're ill, it's a remarkably simple, usable system for consumers to shop around. And if government doesn't provide a good platform, then private enterprise will create software and other systems to assist consumers.

11:39 a.m.: Emanuel: Washington is always consumed with the next big story, but "the real important point we need to make is to keep our eye on 2020" to assess the impact of Obamacare.

11:35 a.m.: What should we look forward in the next few months to gauge the future of Obamacare? Emanuel: First, fiscal cliff discussions will surely focus on bending the overall cost curve for medical care. Kummer: What will Medicaid opt-outs mean? Emanuel: I think every state will come aboard with the expansion now that the election is over; it's just too good a deal for them.

11:34 a.m.: Now up: Bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel, interviewed by Corby Kummer of The Atlantic.

11:32 a.m.: Steele: "I don't believe there was a grand cabal to suppress the vote, but it was highly stupid."

11:30 a.m.: Alter: Is voter suppression as big a deal as MSNBC, where all four of us appear regularly, makes it out to be? Were states trying to rig the election? Rendell: Obviously, some officials were trying to pass these laws to make Obama's reelection more difficult, including in Pennsylvania. But Rendell says the tactics backfired seriously, based on conversations he had at black churches in the closing weeks of the campaign, where voters were angry that they believed there was an effort to take away their right to vote -- even if they were tepid about Obama himself.

11:27 a.m.: Steele criticizes Rendell: Why would Pennsylvania have laid off teachers, rather than scoping the size of the state government, reducing duplication, etc.? Why do Democrats always threaten to cut first responders immediately? Surely government could have been shrunk first. Rendell responds that every state had already been cut down in the recession of the early 2000s; there was no longer anything to cut. But he also points out that teachers and cops are employed by local governments, so it's not an either/or proposition.

11:25 a.m.: Alter asks Rendell, how bad would the economic damage have been at the state level if McCain had won and there hadn't been a big stimulus? Rendell: First, keep in mind that Republicans weren't always against Keynesianism -- Bush went for stimulus in 2002. In any case, Pennsylvania would have lost 25,000 teachers, EMTs, firefighters, and cops right off the bat. In total, it saved or created 49,000 jobs in the first months.

11:22 a.m.: Wolffe: How many times has the Obama presidency been declared dead? When Scott Brown was elected, when he signed Obamacare, and so on. It was the same story after the first presidential debate in 2012. Often those predictions seem reasonable at the time. Part of the problem is that even though Obama and his team see themselves as great communicators, but they've repeatedly failed in their PR efforts. Wolffe says you could say it's remarkable that Obama won with 8 percent unemployment, but it's just as remarkable that he won the reelection war despite losing practically every PR battle.

11:19 a.m.: Rendell: Obama should have made stimulus use-it-or-lose-it, and he should have made sure that Americans knew he was giving them a tax cut.

11:16 a.m.: Rendell: Obama should have written his stimulus bill immediately upon election, sent it to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and asked them to have it ready for him to sign on Inauguration Day. His high popularity would have forced Congress to pass it, and moving faster would have gotten the stimulus moving through the system faster.

11:14 a.m.: Rendell: The president made two huge mistakes on the stimulus. One, he let Congress write most of the bill, so various random social programs were added in -- good programs, but not job-producers. Second, there should have been more than $87 billion in infrastructure, because it's the most efficient stimulus, instead of tax credits and cuts.

11:11 a.m.: Ed Rendell: It's not enough for the GOP to have candidates with black faces. They have to change policies to appeal to minorities, too. Rendell says Scott Brown was foolish to vote against Elena Kagan's nomination and for the Blunt Amendment, regardless of his own beliefs, when he was running in Massachusetts. "No Republican should ever mention the four-letter word 'rape' again."

11:09 a.m.: Steele: "When you did not pick up the Senate, when that was a major play for the party, all you had to do was win four. How did you lose four? You can't put the blinders on and pretend this is a status quo election."

11:08 a.m.: Steele: "The ORCA clearly beached." I was criticized for my GOTV effort in 2010, but I focused on the states, not nationally. We built grassroots organizations rather than having D.C. folks parachute in for the last 72 hours. "And guess what? You get the same results as 2008," rather than 2010, he says.

11:06 a.m.: Alter: Where the did the GOP go off the rails? Steele says he tried to create a 50-state strategy, copying Howard Dean. "We built that network and we won with it [in 2010]," Steele says, saying the party attracted diverse candidates. Once Reince Priebus took over the GOP, he says, they undid the progress he made. People like Karl Rove were more interested in money than inclusiveness, and they siphoned donors away from the RNC, he says.

11:02 a.m: Now up: Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and former RNC Chair Michael Steele (R), interviewed by Jonathan Alter and Richard Wolffe.

11:01 a.m.: How do you handle email improprieties in Congress? Are you concerned about the FBI investigating members' email? Pelosi: We've always been concerned about privacy, but discretion is advisable.

10:59 a.m.: Was Congress informed about Petraeus in a timely way? Pelosi: "It would have been useful to know about it before it was on TV. That was only a matter of minutes difference. I have been a staunch advocate for the prerogative of Congress to be informed," she says. If the scandal had to do with national security, we should have known sooner, but so far it appears that was not the case -- though she says it's too soon to tell. 

10:55 a.m.: Carlson: What are the three things you'd like to accomplish as House Democratic leader? Pelosi names four: health-care reform; economic fairness; climate change; and the role of money in campaigns, which she calls "out of whack." "Amend the Constitution to reverse Citizens United: It. Must. Be. Done." She says it's folly to imagine that money didn't affect the campaign, even if Obama still won. She notes the extent he had to go to raise money in response, and says the big impact is at the congressional level.

10:51 a.m.: Pelosi raps about her hometown Giants, talking about even though they are very diverse, the team name on the front of the jerseys is the same. By the same token, she says, all members of Congress are playing for Team USA. She expresses optimism that Congress' fever may have broken.

10:49 a.m.: Pelosi quips: What did pandas do to deserve being compared to politicians? But she says, more seriously, that the levels of partisanship in Congress now are not the way it's always been. She says Congress accomplished a great deal through Democrats working with George W. Bush. "The idea that a Democratic president comes in and the Republican Senate says, 'Never, does never work for you?'"

10:47 a.m.: Carlson: You're from a similar background to Speaker Boehner. I'd think you'd have a good relationship with him. Do you have a rapport with him? And are congressional Republicans chastened by the election, in which they won more seats but fewer total votes? Pelosi: "What was really important was the reelection of President Barack Obama and retaining the Senate." She calls her relationship with Boehner "respectful."

10:42 a.m.: Carlson starts off with a question about Romney's "gifts" comments explaining Obama's victory. Pelosi: "That was yesterday. We're going forward.... I would say that the most sincere thing Governor Romney said during the campaign was the 47 percent. You saw ardor, you saw passion, you saw authenticity. That's what he really believed, and that's what he's saying now. That's unfortunate, but that's who he is."

10:40 a.m.: Now up: Margaret Carlson interviews Nancy Pelosi.

10:38 a.m.: Rubenstein: We're not going to be the dominant economy over the next 100 years in the way we have been; countries like China will eat into our market share. But we have great assets and resources. My biggest concern is education, especially high-school drop-out rates. Income disparity is also an increasingly dangerous problem. There are actually more people below the poverty line than when the "War on Poverty" began. The American dream of upward mobility may be dead, he says.

10:36 a.m.: Fallows: But isn't that attitude uncommon among the very wealthy? Certainly many Americans would say so. Rubenstein: Many people are still working to build their fortunes, but the extremely wealthy realize there's only so much you can do with your money. Rubenstein points to fellow billionaires like Bill Gates.

10:34 a.m.: Rubenstein calls for "patriotic philanthropy." For example, he likes to buy historical documents (including copies of Magna Carta and the Emancipation Proclamation) and give them to the government.

10:32 a.m.: Rubenstein: "When I began to realize that I had more money that I could spend reasonably," I turned to philanthropy, including the pledge to give away most of his fortune. But you don't need to be a billionaire to be a philanthropy; it doesn't even require money, but involves ideas and organization.

10:29 a.m.: Fallows: How worried are you about the fiscal cliff. Rubenstein: I expect a one-year bargain with some marginal tax increases, a higher capital-gains rate, and some deduction limits. "The uncertainty is the biggest problem," he says, both for businesses and for the world watching us flail while trying to deal with basic problems. "I'm not worried that we won't solve it, but I don't think it will look pretty."

10:27 a.m.: Rubenstein: It's an interesting that Obama has fewer electoral and popular votes for his reelection, busting precedent. But Obama ran a much better campaign than Romney did; Romney didn't do well at deflecting criticism.

10:25 a.m.: Rubenstein: The vicissitudes of panda mating are not unlike Congressional negotiations.

10:22 a.m.: Rubenstein: I think Xi can be a transformative leader: He's a princeling, which gives him leeway, and he's willing to go off script. And change is coming: "It's impossible to keep 1.3 billion people from being exposed to the rest of the world.... People in China know more about capitalism than people here."

10:21 a.m.: Rubenstein: 15 percent of our workforce is in China and we're the biggest private-equity investor in China. 

10:21 a.m. David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group is now being interviewed by James Fallows of The Atlantic.

10:20 a.m.: Sperling: "It is not in our nation's interest to go over the cliff, it is not in our economy's interest to go over the cliff, there is absolutely not reason why members of Congress on both sides" should not be able to work it out.

10:17 a.m.: Sperling: There's no way to get enough revenue without raising tax rates on the wealthy, except by bleeding the middle class.

10:12 a.m.: Sperling is basically sticking close to White House talking points: Tax cuts should be extended for those making less than $250,000; rates should increase for the wealthy, etc.

10:09 a.m.: Karl: What are the stakes of the fiscal cliff? Sperling: "There's no way we should find out." But in a single month there would be up to $30 billion less in middle-class pockets due to tax increases. Obviously, that would create headwinds. Additionally, "If people believe that's going to happen, it's possible that companies could pull back in advance in December."

10:04 am.: Karl starts off asking Sperling about Mitt Romney's comments to donors on Wednesday that Obama won by offering generous "gifts" to certain communities, such as Obamcare and the DREAM Act order. Sperling calls those comments "disappointing," saying it's in U.S. history to empower people through such programs. Those are only special interest gifts to the extent that one believes that policies that lead to a more inclusive middle class is a special interest."

10:02 a.m.: Now up: Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, interviewed by Jon Karl.

10:01 a.m.: Bair: You can't get hung up on whether people react to you in a certain way because you're a woman, though sometimes they will. You have to just keep at it.

10 a.m.: Europe is disheartening, Bair says. She was in Europe to help set up a guarantor like the FDIC. While she thought that was a done deal, it's now up in the air. Confusion like that bodes ill.

9:57 a.m.: Bair: We are setting ourselves up for another financial crisis driven by bonds and interest rates, rather than credit.

9:45 a.m.: Bair: There are still a lot of unrealized losses in the housing market -- shadow inventory and underwater mortgages. It's politically unpopular to help people who aren't paying their mortgages, but that's the only way to solve the problem. Seriously delinquent loans only get worse down the road.

9:52 a.m.: Clemons: You describe how Summers either refused to take FDIC concerns to the White House or misrepresented them. How did you get your messages across? Bair: We tried to resolve things privately. There were times when things leaked to the press; she says she overall gives the press good marks. She complains that when women disagree they are depicted as "difficult" in a way that men are not.

9:50 a.m.: Bair: I criticize Larry Summers and Tim Geithner harshly, but it's about policy, not personality; I don't question anyone's motives. Still, I think we helped big banks too much and homeowners not enough. (Read Summers' response yesterday when pressed on whether the White House did too little for mortgage holders here).

9:47 a.m.: Next up: Former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair, interviewed by The Atlantic's Steve Clemons.

9:45 a.m.: Albright: People ask me if the world would be better off if the world were run by women. "I say, 'Do you remember high school?'" But she says it's important to have both men's and women's voices in government.

9:43 a.m.: Bennet: You've known Susan Rice for a long time. What do you make of the backlash from Senators McCain and Graham to a nomination that hasn't even been made yet? Albright: "I applaud the role of Congress. I can understand why there is a desire and a need for Congress to play a role. What I do think, however, is the president has a right to nominate his cabinet and to have people he wants to have. Congress can address who's qualified." Albright says she won't say who should be secretary of state, but says there is nobody who is better qualified than Susan Rice. "I thought it was untoward of there being a way of saying some of the things that I heard on TV yesterday."

9:41 a.m.: Are the Chinese right to be apprehensive about American actions in Asia, including troop placements in Australia? Albright says U.S. steps are reasonable; we are a Pacific as well as Atlantic power, but we aren't on a war footing with China. It's complicated, she says: We depend on each other for trade and loans.

9:39 a.m.: Albright: The Chinese face serious problems from below, due to poor-rich issues, urban-rural issues, shoddy infrastructure like trains falling off bridges, and widespread corruption. Will they be ready to make any decisions with us, or must they first get their own house in order? The hotspot to watch is the South China Sea.

9:38 a.m.: Bennet: What do you make of the new Chinese regime? Albright: "It's an interesting year for elections. French had an election, the Russians had ... something, we had an election, and the Chinese changed leaders." That's four of the five permanent UN Security Council members. New Chinese leader Xi has a lot of power, but it's unclear how much reform will take place.

9:33 a.m.: Is containment an option for a nuclear Iran? If not, when is the deadline where someone will have to act? "My sense about Iran is I agree that containment is not an option. I believe the president when he says he's not taking any option off the table." But current process is working; Iran is increasingly isolated, leaders are considering bilateral talks, etc. She says both the U.S. and Israel agree that there's no immediate threat because Iran hasn't yet decided whether to create a weapon.

9:32 a.m.: Bennet: Should the U.S. focus on the peace process? Albright says you have to keep at least some of the process going -- like a bicycle, it will fall over if you don't pedal. The U.S. should act with the Quartet to start looking at options, she says, although Israeli elections in January are a big wild card. And if Palestinians go to the UN for recognition, does that free Israel from its obligations under the Oslo agreements?

9:31 a.m.: Albright: "This is in a region where we used to have some sense who was in charge. In all of the countries there are now questions."

9:30 a.m.: Bennet: It's fair to say we have a "frosty relationship" with the current Israeli government. It seems U.S. leverage is at a low. What tools does the U.S. have to calm the situation? Albright: The current situation is as sticky as we've ever seen. Foreign policy is just getting other countries to do what you want, and there really aren't that many tools: multilateral diplomacy, bilateral diplomacy, sanctions, threat of force, force, and law enforcement. The situation in Gaza is very dangerous, she says. Israel has a right to defend itself, but the assassination of a Hamas chief makes it dodgier. 

9:26 a.m.: Madeleine Albright is now up with James Bennet, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic.

9:23 a.m.: Matthews: Opposition has to mean we don't disagree on anything. He tells a story about Mikhail Gorbachev being confused when O'Neill explained to him that he was the leader of the opposition against Reagan. Matthews says it's crazy that Republicans cast Charlie Crist out after he hugged Obama and warned that the same is happening to Chris Christie, post-Sandy.

9:21 a.m.: Matthews: Obama must respect John Boehner, since the speakership of the House is a constitutional position. He says he doesn't think Obama should respect Mitch McConnell much, though.

9:18 a.m.: Matthews: "No deal, including marriage, is equal. Somebody is always getting a better deal. But you gotta make a deal. I would argue 60-40 Democrats because Democrats won the national election." Matthews raps about his days working for legendary speaker Tip O'Neill and O'Neill's relations with him after Reagan's election.

9:15 a.m.: Matthews: There is an Obama mandate, but the Republican view has to be respected -- especially because the country is likely to be about evenly divided for most of our lives.

9:13 a.m.: Matthews: Romney could have won if he'd kept on course from the first debate. His mistake was getting sidelined into foreign policy, an area in which he has less experience and a less defined worldview. He swipes at John Bolton, John Sununu, and Dan Senor as foolish "neocons," who he says like guys with "empty heads" like George W. Bush and Dan Quayle whose heads they can inhabit.

9:11 a.m.: Chris Matthews is up. He says presidential elections offer mandates; Congressional races do not, because all politics is local.

9:09 a.m.: Rubio says the Senate is looking to Obama for leadership on the fiscal cliff. "The first decision has to be made by the president. He has to decide whether he wants to take a comprehensive big look... or are they better off playing it hard, allowing the fiscal cliff to happen, and then when the tax rates go up be in a more advantageous position." He says Congress should avoid tax rates going up and sequestration, and that it's silly to imagine that major entitlement reform can be completed within three weeks.

9:05 a.m.: Rubio says adherents of "conservatism" (not the GOP) has not done a good job of expressing that i for immigration, we just want it to be legal and orderly. He says it's hard to get people to listen to you on economic growth and social issues if they think you want to deport their grandmother -- that's "common sense." "You have to understand that we're talking about human beings," Rubio says.

9:04 a.m.: Rubio: A million people come to the U.S. legally every year. We're still the most generous country in the world with immigrants.

9:01 a.m.: Garrett: There's new optimism about immigration reform in D.C. Are you optimistic? Rubio says the bigger issue is legal immigration, not fixing the status of illegal immigrants already in the country.

8:58 a.m.: Garrett: So you won't vote for a plan that fixes the fiscal cliff if it raises taxes? Rubio dodges: "I'll vote for a solution."

8:56 a.m.: "The fiscal cliff is a complete and total creation of Congress... It was bipartisan dumb." But he refers to it not making sense when "they" did it -- though he was in the Senate. He jokes his objection to higher tax rates is not "religious," but based on the damage he thinks it would do to economic growth. "What problem are you fixing?" He said the increase in revenue is neglible, especially compared to the damage to small businesses. Besides, he says, the rich will hire great accountants and get out of it anyway.

8:54 a.m.: Would you oppose Susan Rice, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham said yesterday they would? Rubio sounds a moderate note: The president has a right to nominate who he wants, and we confirm; I have no pre-judgement on any nominee. "You can't go in with your mind made up."

8:53 a.m.: Marco Rubio is on stage with Major Garrett now. Garrett goes straight for it: You're going to Iowa soon; it is a 2016 dry run? Rubio won't be pinned down, though. He says he has a story to tell but won't go beyond that.
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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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