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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Joy Reid, Hugh’s new favorite lefty

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HH: Hour two of today’s program begins with a brand new guest, and a woman of the left. Joy Reid is the editor of the Reid Report. She is also a frequent guest on MSNBC, a columnist for the Miami Herald, and one of the great bloggers on the left out there. Joy Ann Reid, welcome, it’s great to have you.

JR: Thank you, Hugh. I appreciate the invite. Look at Twitter. Twitter is so powerful. You can just hook up with people that you wouldn’t even know.

HH: That’s it. I find, I go looking for lefties to be on the show all the time, and I find ones who are smart and funny, and we also share an alma mater. Which house were you in, by the way?

JR: I was Cabot.

HH: Oh, that’s too bad. I’m a Winthrop guy.

JR: Oh, I forgive you.

HH: But I saw that, and I said okay, let’s go box a little bit with Joy Reid. But I don’t actually want to box. Here’s the deal, Joy. We lost. My side lost. I was stunned. I thought we were going to win. Your side won. The President’s got four more years. And this is an honest to goodness question.

JR: Yeah.

HH: What do you want out of this deal?

JR: Well, if we’re talking in the immediate future, right, the fiscal cliff, I actually want what I wanted in 2010, although I made some adjustments for reality, is that I think they should just let all the Bush tax cuts expire. And the reason I say that is that if both sides agree they care about deficits, the Bush tax cuts are one of the most egregious sort of things that were done in the last several years that really exploded the deficit. We can’t afford them, so let’s wipe the slate clean and then we can have a discussion and a debate on what the tax code should look like, on who should get tax cuts in the coming year.

HH: Okay, so we actually agree. I want them to all go away as well. I don’t want to cut a deal just to keep the lower ones and let the higher ones go. Let’s let it all go back. What do you want after that?

JR: Well, I mean, I think in the coming four years, definitely once we stabilize the economy, obviously, I mean, in an ideal world, I’d love to see more stimulus. I mean, I am a total Keynesian, and I think that when the economy has not enough aggregate demand, you need to infuse more demand. And if we don’t get it from consumers, there’s a place for government to do it, I mean, smart investments, right? Like we want energy independence? Well, let’s invest in the technologies China’s going to beat our behinds in, meaning new sources of energy. Let’s invest in that. Let’s fix our roads and bridges. Let’s do infrastructure spending and put Americans to work. So I want to see non-outsourcable jobs increase so that Americans can work. So I think both sides agree that that is job one. After that, I’d love to see marijuana legalization. I think the libertarians are with me on that. We should peel back the stupid drug war, get the heck out of Afghanistan so that we can start working on home. I think those are the big priorities, including, obviously, implementing Obamacare.

HH: Now how much money do you want to spend on stimulus? The first stimulus was $785 billion…

JR: Right.

HH: It got up to $850 billion when you added in all the whistles and bells. How much do you want to spend as sort of one-time stimulus spending?

JR: Right, I mean, I think the first time, we did spend $700 billion, but so much of it was on tax cuts, and on, you know, the chicanery that’s done in Washington where you move money from column A to column B and call it spending or even call it cuts. They’ve done both, right? But I think what the government should do is sit down, I don’t have a specific target number in mind, but I could see us doing even a targeted $300-400 billion dollar project that’s targeted, and it’s specific, and it’s not just gimmes to all sorts of little programs, but that it’s directed, you know, I know on the right they don’t love this idea of doing it from Washington, but looking at where we need the infrastructure spending the most and looking at where we need the job spending the most, and doing a big program that has no tax cuts, just spending.

HH: And so $300-400 billion dollars, that would make the deficit next year $1.4-$1.6 trillion. Does that bother you?

JR: Well you know, it’s funny, because when I was growing up, right, Republicans used to, and including Dick Cheney, used to say deficits didn’t matter. I think, I mean, I don’t know if you took Ec 10. I took Ec 10. That’s like the big sort of freshman economics course.

HH: I was awake. Yes, I was awake.

JR: You were awake? Okay.

HH: I’m not sure I know much about it, but I was there.

JR: But they were more on your side than mine, I have to say, that the economics we learned was more on the right than on the left. But I mean, I actually think in the short term, deficits don’t matter. The United States still has the greatest borrowing power of any country on Earth. We can still borrow at incredibly low interest rates around the world. So I am not that concerned, frankly, about short-term deficits. I think we can run a $1-1.5 trillion dollar deficit in the short run and still be able to borrow money at low rates.

HH: For how long do you think we can keep that up, Joy Reid?

JR: I wouldn’t worry, to be honest with you, about the deficit until we get to a targeted employment number. When we get down around 7, 6-7% unemployment, then I would say let’s start doing deficit reduction. But I don’t think it’s a number of years. I think it’s an employment number.

HH And so, why then stop at $300-400 billion? Why not do a trillion in targeted stimulus, or $2 trillion or $3 trillion? Why not just spend until everyone’s employed?

JR: Right, well, here’s where you and I probably agree more than you would expect. I think you have to give Washington money like methadone, right? You don’t just give them all of it and give them as much as they want, and give them more than you think they’d need. I think that you need to do spending in doses. And you need to do it in smaller than a trillion at a time, because number one, Washington isn’t always efficient enough to know what to do with a huge amount of money. A lot of it would get wasted, a lot of it would go to things like what we’re doing in Defense, where we’re building bombers that part of the military doesn’t want, or we’re building another Navy ship that the Navy doesn’t need. And you wind up with a lot of waste, because members of Congress, even though they’ve taken all these pledges, all they’re there to do is to find ways to get money for their district. That is their main job, and then getting reelected. So they wind up saying yes to a lot of projects that don’t make sense, so I’m not for giving an unlimited amount. I’m for giving, start with a small amount and let’s see the efficacy of it and then look at it again.

HH: I’m talking with Joy Reid of the Reid Report. You see her on MSNBC, Miami Herald columnist, just to let everyone know, and she’s my new favorite lefty, because she’s actually answering the questions. But Joy, I’m still in the dark as to is there any limit in your mind in terms of the amount of red ink in any given year, or total debt that you don’t want us to cross?

JR: Right, I think if we were in a situation where our borrowing costs were unsustainable, if we were in a situation where we had Europe’s levels of really stagnant economic growth, or Japan’s, or you know, in that whole period for Japan, if we were there, then I would say okay, we need to think about it. But I don’t think we are. I mean, we had an incredibly horrifying recession. It was devastating to so many people. But we climbed out of ours a lot faster than Europe. And I’ll tell you, Hugh, I think part of the reason why is because we did stimulus, and they did austerity. And you see how that worked out for particularly Great Britain, which has a similar economy in a lot of ways to ours. They went back into a recession, because they contracted so much spending out of the economy by having the government do austerity. So I don’t think I have a target number in mind. I think that would be artificially sort of creating, you know, sort of fake milestones. I think we need to look at our unemployment number. We want to be at 6-7% unemployment, 6% even better, and that’s what I sort of target.

HH: Now what about the entitlement issues that a lot of people want to see as part of this deal? Do you favor any kind of changes to Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid?

JR: Right, not Social Security, because it doesn’t contribute to the deficit. It’s funded by itself, and I think Social Security, to me, is sacrosanct. Like I wouldn’t touch it.

HH: Not even raising the retirement age, Joy?

JR: No. I mean, if you’re bending over a machine all day, I mean, for you and me, where we’re kind of, you know, our jobs are kind of chill, we could work until we were…

HH: Our jobs are kind of…you don’t know how hard I work. No, no, no. I don’t have a producer. I have to do all this by myself. (Except for the whole transcribing all these interviews and all – The Producer)

JR: You know what? I feel you, because I used to be in radio, and I was the producer and on air, so yeah, I understand that. You’re actually working hard.

HH: Well, so in any case, we’ll put ourselves aside. But you don’t think we need to go to 66, 67 years old retirement age?

JR: I mean, you know, if it was white collar only. I just feel for that guy, you know, that’s working a machine all day, who’s on their feet all day in retail, people who are standing eight, nine hours a day, people who are working in the mining industry. There are a lot of industries that are just really God awful, difficult, body-breaking work. And I don’t think that we should say to those people you need to work two more years.

HH: How about an adjustment to the COLA so that it more accurately reflects real inflation as opposed to the cost of living increases that Social Security has passed along for years?

JR: Yeah, I’m for that. I think the COLA is a great place to start doing adjustments. Yeah, I’m also wary of any kinds of means testing unless you means tested on the COLA, like maybe you get a smaller cost of living adjustment if you have a certain income, maybe that. But I’m a little wary of means testing it, because I think if you turned these entitlement programs into poverty programs, they’re easy to get rid of, you know what I mean, because not everyone has skin in the game.

HH: Now about Medicare and Medicaid?

JR: So Medicaid, I think, because it’s the backstop for poor seniors, a lot of people don’t realize much of what Medicaid pays for is nursing home care and care for poor seniors, so I am very wary of that, and of giving states, you know, even more leverage, because states like Mississippi, they tend to neglect their poor more. So you’ll wind up with red states that are just basket cases, and blue states that usually do pretty well. So I mean, as far as Medicare, though, I said today on MSNBC, and I expected to get a lot more heat from my own side, we should look at Medicare, because look, for one thing, seniors by their votes in this last election, just ratified the idea of basically getting rid of Medicare for people like me, for people who are under 55. They basically said turn it into a voucher program. We’re good with that if you exempt us. Well, I think that generation, Baby Boomers and older who are a big, ginormous cohort of people should not be able to exempt themselves from the pain. They should be able to pay, too. And I think that we can look at Medicare. It’s the biggest cost drain, because the cost of health care is so ridiculous and out of whack. So yeah, I think Medicare is where you look for the cuts.

– – – –

HH: Joy, by the way, are you a religious person at all?

JR: I grew up Methodist, so I am a Christian, yes.

HH: So the Christmas carols don’t offend you. I always have to check with my lefties, you know. They might just walk away and get mad.

JR: You know what? I’ve got to tell you one thing that does bother me, I have to say, is I hate hearing them on Thanksgiving. I think it’s just encroaching too much.

HH: Now we’re not doing that. We wait until after Thanksgiving.

JR: You’re waiting.

HH: Now I want to go back to a couple of other issues just to get you sort of centered on my audience’s geographical plot of lefties. Who do you most admire in the United States Senate?

JR: You know what? Let me think who out of this group of 100 lovelies. You know, recently, I’ve become a big fan of Harry Reid, just because I think he’s become a lot more gangster, and I just love the way he kind of took it to your party, with all due respect. I like him, I like Jay Rockefeller. I think he’s a good long time, principled combination of a liberal, but also looking out for his state. And I like John Kerry.

HH: Okay, and so do you want the filibuster rules changed?

JR: Yes, I do.

HH: Did you support the filibusters of all the judges when Harry Reid and Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy filibustered all the Republican judges 2001-2002-2003-2004?

JR: I’m sure back then as a partisan, I did. But I think you know, I don’t think you get rid of the filibuster. I think what we’ve started to have is elections never end. And they keep playing themselves out particularly in the Senate, which is supposed to be the adult body, where we’ve gotten to a point where they were filibustering everything in the 111th Congress, and in the 112th Congress, too. And I feel like it’s gone too far. Sorry, the 112th Congress. It’s gone too far. And there was this meeting that was held, including Paul Ryan and the Young Guns, where they said we’re just going to stop everything in its tracks. And on the Senate side, the way that played out was filibustering literally everything. And I think that if you’re going to do that, you should have to filibuster the old-fashioned way. You should have to read the phone book, you should have to actually take the consequences of your actions. You shouldn’t be able to threaten it and then never have to do it. So if they just did that, I would be happy.

HH: So when the Democrats try and filibuster in the future, you won’t object when the Republicans invoke the nuclear option to overrule it?

JR: Well, here’s the thing. That’s the danger of getting rid of it. That’s why I say adjust it. Don’t get rid of the filibuster, because it does provide protection for minority rights. And you’re absolutely right. One day, it will be the Democrats who are the minority, and then they’re going to want the opportunity to filibuster. But again, I think if you’re going to do a filibuster, the rule that I would like to see Harry Reid do is to make people really do it.

HH: But that’s not the rule they used back when they opposed all the Bush judges. So it’s a different rule. You want a different rule for Democrats than for Republicans.

JR: No, no, no. I want one rule, which is that if you’re going to filibuster, you can’t just threaten it and then leave and go home. You should actually have to carry out a filibuster the way they did in the 50s and the 60s, and the way we did. I’m not sure at what point in our history we decided to filibuster could just be a threat and you don’t actually have to carry it out. If people want to filibuster, then get on the Senate floor and read the phone book.

HH: All right, now I also want to ask you about foreign policy. President Morsi of Egypt, a graduate of the University of Southern California, I like to point out, does he alarm you, what he’s up to?

JR: I think he’s in a difficult position. It definitely alarmed me when he did this decree where he granted himself immunity from his own court system. But on the other hand, look what happened. Afterwards, people went into the streets and ultimately, he began to back down. I think what’s changed in Egypt for the better is that the people feel they have a voice. You can’t just take autocratic rule without consequences. So you know, he worries me a little bit, but I do think that the idea of democracy flowering in the Middle East of its own accord, not because we marched in there with an army and imposed it on people is a good thing.

HH: Now the President’s leading from behind again there. He hasn’t said anything about Morsi’ grab. He didn’t say much about Assad for about a year. He never said anything about Qaddafi until the violence broke out there. Are you comfortable that the President is an activist enough foreign policy president?

JR: No, I think what he’s done has been very effective. Look, at the end of the day, my objection to what George W. Bush did in terms of foreign policy in terms of Iraq, the people of Iraq were not the ones saying hey, march in here with your army and get rid of Saddam Hussein. I believe that when people are good and ready to get rid of their dictators, they’ll do it. And then we should give them whatever support we can without dragging our troops into a war. So I think that what the President did was very effective. They understood on the ground, if you read, you know, listen to Richard Engel’s reports, et cetera, people understood where the Americans stood. They understood where the American president stood. But we wanted to see them do things. Do the damn thing. If you want to overthrow your dictator, do it. But don’t wait for us, and I hate this idea that we get levered into wars in the Middle East that were not our idea, and that are not in our direct national interest like Iraq.

HH: Joy Reid, who’s freer today – the people of Iraq or the people of Egypt? And why do you say which one?

JR: Well, there’s a caveat, because in Iraq, they’re still counting on security measures from the United States. I would argue right now who’s closer to Iran? Iraq is much closer to Iran, and I mean, I don’t have a window into what’s going on in the streets of Iraq, but I would argue that what we did there was still not worth it, even if they have a modicum more freedom. Yeah, you can’t be less free than with a crazy person like Saddam Hussein as the dictator of your country.

HH: But I mean relative, Iraq to Egypt today, Egypt with a dictator who is grabbing more power as we speak, Iraq with a cumbersome but nevertheless freely elected government through representative parties. Who’s more free?

JR: I don’t know. I would say they’re probably about the same, because look, both of them are holding elections in which people are choosing a president. We don’t know how corrupt or not corrupt the elections were in Iraq, either, by the way. And I haven’t really seen this flowering of democracy there that’s very impressive to me.

HH: And should the United States use force to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon if that’s the only thing that will stop them?

JR: No.

HH: So you don’t mind if Iran goes nuke?

JR: Israel has nukes. They are the strongest power in the Middle East. Nobody is going to attempt to use nuclear weapons against Israel, because Israel will nuke them out of existence.

HH: Now of course there is a strain of Mahdism in Iran that does not mind going down with everybody blowing up, correct?

JR: I mean, I think there’s a strain of that in a lot of countries. Look, there’s nihilistic, crazy people in a lot of countries. And a lot of, the sort of forces within these countries that we don’t like, right, but I think Iran has actually proved itself to be a fairly rational actor. I mean, they have resisted the idea of completely demilitarizing and getting rid of all their nuclear capability. But they’ve always come short of actually getting a weapon or proffering a weapon the way let’s say North Korea does. They respond to international pressure like a rational actor. I thought that Saddam Hussein, as cruel as he was to his own people, was a rational actor and wouldn’t have done any of the things that the neocons said that he was planning to do. So I actually think containment works with Iran.

HH: Joy Reid, do you think there’s moral equivalence between Iran and Israel?

JR: Oh, absolutely. I don’t think there’s, I mean, I don’t make moral equivalencies between countries. I understand Israel’s point of view. But I also think that Israel could help themselves. I think there is a far right in Israel that isn’t helping the majority, the moderate majority do what most Israelis, I believe, want to do, which is to just go ahead and do a two-state solution which would defuse a lot of the tension there. I think that Netanyahu is pulled by forces like the Avigdor Lieberman side, which are extreme, and which don’t want to have a peace deal any more than the other side. So I think that the majority in Israel are moderate, and would do exactly what most of them are saying they want to do.

HH: So you think Israel is the problem, that Israel is the one preventing peace?

JR: No, I didn’t say that. I said the majority in Israel, I believe, want peace. But I think on both sides of that issue, look, you had a Palestinian PLO, the PLO, I mean, the Palestinian Authority, who never could get there. Peace was laid out in front of them, the way for both sides to know what the end game was going to be. But I think that these entities have not been able to get there for whatever reason. Neither of them can develop the trust, and both of them have parts of their governments that are extreme that don’t want it. So I think it would be heroic if Netanyahu would go ahead and sign a peace deal. But I think his own public, he has an election coming up. His own politics play a part, and I think it’s unrealistic and unfair of us to pretend that there are no politics happening on the Israeli side.

– – – –

HH: Joy Reid is my guest from Miami where she is a lefty in residence on the Hugh Hewitt Show, and we really, we like having you on, Joy. It’s great fun.

JR: I’m actually in New York, but thank you.

HH: I thought you were in Miami, you did your life in Miami?

JR: I did. Well you know what? Last year, I came up here, because my other job, I have many jobs, I’m managing editor at the Grio.com, which is an NBC property up here. So I actually am in both, I’m sort of a dual resident.

HH: Oh, you’re like Bob Beckel.

JR: I’m like Bob Beckel. I’m a dual resident. Like most Floridians, I live in both New York and Florida.

HH: You know, most Democrats get twitchy when I say oh, you’re like Bob Beckel. They don’t want anything to do with anyone who’s on Fox. Now tell me, is MSNBC fairer or less fair than Fox?

JR: I think MSNBC is far more fair than Fox, way more fair. And it actually, you know, my problem with Fox News is that you know, for all the sort of pretensions that during the day they’re just doing news, the slant that exists in prime time taints their daytime programming. You know, every so often I think Chris Wallace will impress me with his questioning of guests. But for the most part, they’re doing Rupert Murdoch’s bidding. They’re doing conservative slanted news all day.

HH: Joy, what conservatives, I mean, real conservatives have you ever seen on MSNBC in say the last three months during the election campaign?

JR: Are you kidding? I mean, John Sununu like practically lived there. I mean…

HH: No, he was a guest.

JR: He was on every day.

HH: I mean, he was a guest. I’m talking about as a commentator who’s a regular panelist or host.

JR: Oh, S.E. Cupp is a co-host of The Cycle, so she’s on five days a week.

HH: Nobody watches The Cycle, Joy. You know that. Nobody.

JR: That’s not very nice.

HH: Well, no I’m saying, it’s just absolutely true. There are more people watching this show in the Hughniverse right now than watch The Cycle. But I’m talking about like on Hardball or the Ed Show.

JR: Well, there are plenty of people. Susan del Percio, who’s a regular on the Ed Show, a good friend of mine, lovely person, conservative Republican strategist is always on. I’m going to forget the guy’s name, but he was an aide to Rick Santorum. There’s plenty of conservatives on all the time.

HH: I just was wondering if you’re comfortable.

JR: What about Boras. Boras is a conservative.

HH: I don’t watch, actually, I don’t watch MSNBC.

JR: Really?

HH: I only know about you because of Twitter, because you’re good on Twitter.

JR: Oh, okay. Thank you.

HH: That’s why I know about you. I don’t see you on MSNBC. I never watch it. All right, I want to go back to Israel, because I know it will leave people wondering whether you think that Hamas is a legitimate actor with whom negotiations ought to be opened.

JR: No, I don’t, but here’s the thing. I think that unfortunately, this is the situation that we in the West face. When George W. Bush decided the best thing to do would be to hold an election, the people who were on the ground, you know the way the Mob used to do in New York where they’re handing out turkeys, the people who were closer to you and that are closer to the ground that are providing food and medicine, the people who seem to be doing something were Hamas, and so of course they got elected in Gaza. And so you have these two poles of authority. One, Hamas, which is extreme, and one, the P.A., which is ineffective, so the Palestinians are in a no-win situation between the ineffective guys and the extreme guys.

HH: But do you think Hamas represents the average Palestinian in Gaza? Or are they…

JR: I can’t speak for the average Palestinian. I have no idea.

HH: I think they do. I think they’re very, very popular, and that the Palestinian population in Gaza is dedicated to the eradication of the state of Israel, and I don’t see any evidence that would tell me otherwise. Do you think that…

JR: You see, I think that’s unfair. I think the average Palestinian is dedicated to just having a state, at having peace, and having the same comforts that anyone else does. Most human beings on the Earth are not constantly radicalized entities. And I think the majority of Palestinians, especially in Gaza, they’re worried about medicine and food, and just being able to have a decent life and a decent existence. And I think to the extent people are loyal to Hamas, it’s because they feel that’s their only hope. I think the Palestinians are probably the most hopeless people on the planet. I think they are one of the saddest cases on the planet. They don’t seem to have a strategy for getting dignity, decency and a state. And I don’t think that it’s because they’re all radical crazy people. I think it’s because they are hopeless.

HH: Now I think they like Hamas, and I don’t think they like the Jews very much, and I think they want to destroy Israel, so we have to disagree on that one.

JR: We’ll have to disagree on it.

HH: All right, let me conclude by asking you about President Obama and his place in history, and I hope you’ll come back and talk about this a lot.

JR: Sure.

HH: He had a failed first term. Obamacare is a mess. It’s got the state exchanges aren’t coming on. They can’t pay for it. It’s not going to cover people. Health care costs are going through the roof. His economic legacy is a disaster right now. He hasn’t delivered a single major piece of legislation that works. The least popular reelected incumbent in history, and apparently clueless about how to negotiate with the opposite side. Do you have any hopes for his success in the second term?

JR: Well actually, let me just sort of reconfigure your, that was a breathtaking soliloquy there, Hugh Hewitt. Look, seven men in the history of this country have gotten elected twice with more than 50% of the vote, including Reagan, Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Jackson. Only seven men who have done that, including this president, Barack Obama, who got elected twice with more than 50% of the vote. Major pieces of legislation? I don’t know. They tried for a hundred years to do universal health care. He did it in his first term in his first two years. Obamacare, the exchanges come on in 2014. You can’t prejudge something which actually rolls over more than a year from now. And I actually think Obamacare will be a huge and important legacy. And you know, your guys’ last president, George W. Bush, destroyed this country’s economy. And this President has managed to bring it back. Half the jobs that were lost are already back. The economy is growing. This God awful mess Bush left is being cleaned up.

HH: All right, Joy. I’m glad that we ended our first conversation with you blaming Bush. Somehow, that’s poetically correct. Joy Reid, thank you, great to talk to you, come back again soon.

End of interview.

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