HH: To fill our time profitably before now and the election results, I am so pleased to welcome back Joy Ann Reid. Joy is the managing editor of TheGrio.com. She’s of course an on-air star at MSNBC doing a lot more guest hosting, and I hope she continues to do a lot more guest hosting over there. Hello, Joy, welcome back, good to have you.
JAR: Mr. Hewitt, it’s good to talk to you again.
HH: Now are you depressed? The President’s down to 39% in the opinion poll of approval at Gallup. Are you sad and depressed?
JAR: I’m crushed. I don’t know how I’m going to wake up in the morning. I can’t go on, Hugh. I can’t.
HH: How low will he go, do you think? You think he’ll hit 35%?
JAR: I don’t know. Given how off Gallup was in the 2012 elections, I think maybe on Gallup, he could go to like 12 and then that would really mean he’s at 40.
HH: So that doesn’t really reflect the reality? The 39% is not a reality check?
JAR: Well listen, I think, you know, I recall during the George W. Bush administration, he would hit in the 40s, and you would still be said to be an enormously popular president. I mean, these things come and go. Look, people after a while get weary of any president. Presidents sort of, either if you have a really great economy like Bill Clinton you can kick off on a real high sort of into your second term. But it ebbs and flows. And look, he’s had a terrible news cycle. This has been a really rough news cycle. The media got tired of bashing Republicans for shutting down the government, and now they’re logging onto Healthcare.gov and bashing that. So when you have a bad news cycle, yeah, your polls go down. It’s kind of a weird quirk of our business that we drag down a politician, and then we poll it. And then we go oh, my God, look at their numbers how bad they are.
HH: Well, here’s what the President said today in his own defense, cut number one:
BO: If you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law, and you really liked that plan, what we said was you could keep it, if it hasn’t changed since the law’s passed.
HH: Now Joy, that’s not true, is it? He didn’t say if it hasn’t changed. He said you could keep it, period.
JAR: Well you know, this is one of those cases where compression is not always your friend, Hugh. Okay, so here’s the deal. I was trying to think of an analogy. I was trying to come up with one that would sort of be simple and make sense. And the one I came up with was DDT, right? So maybe your audience, I don’t know if anybody’s old enough to remember DDT used to be the pesticide of choice, like, right, in the 60s. In the 50s and 60s, everybody used DDT, and people really liked it, like this is very effective, it’s a wonderful pesticide. And then all of a sudden, this book came out in 1962 that raised alarms about how dangerous DDT was, and it got outright banned in 1972. Now had the government in 1972 said listen, if you love your pesticide, you can keep it, it would have been wrong, because the truth is if your pesticide contained DDT, it was now illegal, that you’d have to buy a totally different pesticide and use that on your garden. And what the White House really made a mistake in doing is trying to compress a really complex situation into one line.
HH: Actually, Joy, I think…
JAR: The truth of the matter is…
HH: I think DDT stands for don’t deceive truth tellers, because here’s Clarence Page from your network. This is Clarence Page talking about the President’s many time promises.
HH: He knew he was lying?
CP: Probably. Probably. But that’s one of those political lies.
HH: So do you agree with Clarence that the President was lying when he made those DDT promises you’re referring to?
JAR: I think that this is actually an absurd argument. We’re talking about three percent of people who get individual purchase insurance. If your policy is now illegal under law, you’re going to get a letter from your insurance saying this policy is no longer compliant, you can have that policy. If you don’t like that policy, you can shop on the exchange. That is not the same as saying that the President is now a complete liar and your insurance has been cancelled. Insurance companies do this all the time, Hugh. You’ve had insurance, I’ve had insurance. The policy is no longer available. You have to have a new one. That’s it.
HH: Joy, I understand all that, but that’s 15 million people. Does it count if the President only lied to 15 million people? Or are you saying he didn’t lie to those 15 million people?
JAR: Random number, and I think that the issue here is that the President compressed something that is really complex into one line, which is what you’re told you’re supposed to do.
HH: I am, this is good. Oh, you’re good, Joy.
JAR: And it was a one liner that didn’t work.
HH: You’re very good.
JAR: If you have insurance that’s not legal anymore, you have to have new insurance. That’s it. If you have insurance that’s not legal, it’s gotta go.
HH: But that compressed…okay, so instead of lying, he merely compressed the truth. Now here’s what Jonathan Alter said on my, I’m just showing you what the MSNBC people said, Joy.
HH: Here’s the exchange with Clarence.
HH: He knew he was lying?
CP: Probably. Probably. But that’s one of those political lied.
HH: Do you agree with Clarence?
JA: Wow, I don’t know exactly how to react to that.
HH: Joy, you’re the last one on MSNBC who’s defending the President as not lying.
JAR: I find this to be very entertaining, Hugh, and I know that this is a line that you’re doing, because your audience can’t stand Barack Obama. But at the end of the day, let’s talk about the facts. The facts are that if you have insurance that no longer complies with the law, and by the way, that’s because it doesn’t cover health, it doesn’t cover mental health, or it doesn’t cover maternity leave, if you have junk insurance, it’s no longer legal. I don’t really think that that is the biggest crisis facing American health care. The biggest crisis is that insurance companies were selling garbage policies to people, and now they can’t do that anymore.
HH: But Joy, this isn’t about the, you know, we can argue all day about whether or not Obamacare is a disaster, and I think it is, and you don’t think it is. This is about credibility. Ron Fournier today, and you know Ron, he wrote, “The President is now misleading the public about his deception.” That’s in the National Journal. Everybody knows he’s lying. Shouldn’t you do an intervention and help him to get off of the lying?
JAR: I think that this is a clever sidebar that is irrelevant to the rollout of health care reform. That’s all this is.
HH: Does the President’s truth telling matter?
JAR: Well Hugh, you’re making a specious argument. The argument is about whether three percent of people who have insurance that might be junk policies can hold onto those junk policies, or have to trade them in for a new policy. No one’s having their insurance cancelled. They’re having it go to compliant policies.
HH: But Joy, that’s…
JAR: It doesn’t change the facts.
HH: That’s a different subject. I’m just asking whether or not the President’s credibility matters. Does it matter if little children can look at the President and say the President’s not a liar?
JAR: Hugh, little children are not looking at the President and saying oh, my God, my fourth place horrible insurance is going away, the President’s a liar. That’s not what people are going to look at health care for. They’re looking at whether it works and whether they’re getting better coverage. That’s what people are going to remember. This is an entertaining sidebar. It’s great for you, great for your show, not relevant.
HH: No, but it is. Whether or not the President is telling the truth…
HH: Ron Fournier is not a conservative talk show host, right? He is the center of the center. And when he write in the National Journal, “The President is now misleading the public about his deception,” don’t you have a crisis of credibility? Has Barack Obama gone LBJ?
JAR: Gone LBJ? No, I don’t, well, only in the sense that LBJ passed two landmark, signed two landmark pieces of legislation, well, actually, three if you count Medicare. Well, maybe in that sense, he’s gone LBJ. This is a complicated health care plan. It’s got to be rolled out properly. The White House has done a terrible job of messaging, terrible. And I don’t think that that’s arguable. But I don’t think it changes the substance of the policy, which is overall good.
HH: Now I’ve got to ask you, do you know Cass Sunstein, Joy?
JAR: I don’t, actually.
HH: Well, okay, he’s the President’s good friend. And this week, he wrote that this is all about the Alger Hiss case. Do you agree with that?
JAR: The Alger Hiss case? You’ve got to explain that one to me.
HH: Well no, Cass Sunstein came up with that.
JAR: How is it relevant?
HH: Cass Sunstein wrote the column saying this is why the Tea Party hates liberals so much, is because of Alger Hiss. Do you think Alger Hiss was guilty?
JAR: Oh, God, I think the Tea Party is the most unpopular single entity in the country right now, because they’re sort of anger doesn’t seem relevant to try and solve problems. So I really don’t go by what the Tea Party thinks, period.
HH: But Joy, just as a factual…
JAR: Whatever they think of Alger Hiss is fine.
HH: But as a factual matter, do you think Alger Hiss was guilty?
JAR: I don’t think I was alive when Alger Hiss was…yeah, sure, he’s guilty.
HH: Was he a communist?
JAR: I wasn’t alive. I have no idea.
HH: But I mean, shouldn’t, well, hold on through the break.
— – – – –
HH: Joy, Ron Fournier says the President is, “reinventing history.” And Cass Sunstein, in his column about Alger Hiss, writes that most people have concluded that Chambers was telling the truth, and that Hiss did indeed perjure himself. But the legacy of the case extends well beyond the issue of Hiss’ guilt. He won’t come out and say that Hiss was a communist. And I think it all comes down to truth telling. And what’s going on here, this is a very serious question. I don’t think the left cares about what’s true with a capital T. I think the President lied with a capital L. And some people like Clarence Page and Jonathan Alter are willing to say that. But a lot of his defenders, like you, just aren’t willing to say that, and aren’t willing to call Hiss a communist, and aren’t willing to recognize reality. What’s the problem with the left?
JAR: Well Hugh, you know, I find it be a really novel, and I really like you, by the way. I like reading what you write, and I think your show is a lot of fun. But I think that there is a fundamental dishonesty when you do have on the right such things as we will be greeted as liberators, and I never heard any of you guys backpedal on any of that. We had a president for eight years that you guys have a 100% pass to, no matter what he said. You guys have suddenly discovered that every word that comes out of the mouth of Barack Obama has to be dissected. I think that’s good. I think presidents should be held accountable. But the reality is that in the pantheon of presidential misstatements, this is going to be a minute, minute misstep in comparison to previous presidents who have lied us into wars.
HH: Okay, so, but at least is it in…
JAR: So I think that if I had to compare, if I had to compare, Hugh, just let me finish one sentence, if I had to look at the last four presidents, and the things that they said that turned out now to be true, this one comes out on the very bottom. We’re talking about three percent of the public who have individually purchased insurance, some of whom may have to switch policies. I don’t see that as a big reason…
HH: Now here’s what the President said when the Supreme Court handed down its decision, all right? This is in June of 2012. Here’s the President of the United States.
BO: If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.
HH: Now is that part of the pantheon of presidential misstatements?
JAR: That is absolutely true. 80% of Americans get their insurance through either private health care through their job, through Medicare or Medicaid. Nothing happens to any of those people. You have 15% of people that have no insurance at all. They are going to receive health care of the first time. So now we’re up to our 95%. Of the 5% of people who purchased health insurance on the individual market, the vast majority of them are grandfathered in, because those policies were issued before 2010. Now of the small number…
HH: Now Joy, this is really perplexing…
JAR: Hold on a second. Of the small number of people whose policies are not compliant, are you telling me that the entire project falls on the maybe two to three percent of people who have to switch policies? If that’s the hill you guys want to die on, you’re going to lose the war.
HH: I’m telling you that when the President said…
BO: Here’s a guarantee that I’ve made. If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance. If you’ve got a doctor that you like, you will be able to keep your doctor.
HH: When he said that, I think he crossed a rhetorical bridge that he ought to admit he ought not to have crossed, that he lied, and that people like Ron Fournier are right to point out that this is a serial deception that’s falling apart, and that his numbers will continue to collapse until he comes out and says I’m sorry, I reengineered the American economy badly on the basis a lie, Joy. It’s sort of like, and I go back to Hiss now, for a very real reason. Facts are stubborn things, and for a lot of lefties, they don’t want to admit that Hiss was a communist. And for a lot of modern lefties, they don’t want to admit that President Obama is lying about this. And I think this truth issue is going to plague him through is whole second term unless he gets it straight.
JAR: Mr. Hewitt, I think you are blessed with the genius of overstatement. I look forward to your revision of your opinions about George W. Bush and Iraq.
HH: But be that as it may, Bush is done. But the President has got 40 months to go. Can he govern with nobody believing him?
JAR: Yeah, and we’re not going to be talking about, we’re not going to be talking about this for 40 months, as much as I know you’d love to. Believe me, we’re not going to be talking about this for 40 months. 3% of the health care market that has to switch to compliant policies, again, if that’s the hill the right is going to die on, if that’s your best excuse, the fact is you’re in very serious trouble.
HH: Last question then, Joy, do you care at all…
JAR: Very serious trouble.
HH: Do you care at all about the people who will not have insurance in January who have it right now because the President lied to them?
JAR: That is not what, that is a lie. Now you’re saying something that’s fundamentally untrue. If you get a letter from your insurer saying that this policy is no longer compliant and you have to switch to another one, that’s not people not having any insurance. What you just said is fundamentally wrong, and I think you know it.
HH: No, what I said is do you care about people who will not have insurance in January who have it now?
JAR: It’s not true. It’s not true. No, the people, I do. No, I actually do. And you know who won’t have insurance starting in January, Hugh? The people who live in Republican-run states who are refusing the Medicaid expansion, and are going to leave eight million people uninsured. Democrats are the only ones that care about the uninsured. Republicans have no program. You guys have answered to the 40-50 million uninsured is nothing, is to continue with the old system. Only Democrats and governors who demand…
HH: Joy, will, you’ve got to come back.
JAR: …that are expanding Medicaid care.
HH: Come back. We’re out…we’re on a hard break. Come back and we’ll talk health care all day long, because I love talking health care with you. Joy Reid, good luck, continue to come back.
End of interview.