BOTH SIDES NOW: Is America Inching Left?

By Mark Green

Shrum and Erickson look back at five of last six presidential votes, Cooch's loss, DeBlasio's blowout, minimum wage votes, GOP polling and agree that America is slowly shifting. Moment or trend? They then debate NSA excesses, Obama's apology and Christie's temper.


On NSA eavesdropping.

Edward Snowden has morphed from a possible traitor to an influential truth-teller -- talk about rebranding! What can be done to an intel system that seems unaccountable, expensive, intrusive?

Erick Erickson is "outraged by the outrage over the NSA. If the NSA weren't doing a version of this, then I'd be really shocked since every other country does it. Speaker Boehner was cool with the NSA listening in on Americans but not foreigners... when it should be the reverse."

Bob Shrum has no sympathy for Snowden "who betrayed his mission and country and put American lives at risk. Having said that, our intelligence-gathering needs more oversight" but not at expense of slowing efforts that have apparently succeeded in detecting or deterring many attacks.

To test this consensus, Host asks: Because there's no adversarial process in FISA courts + several of those judges have found the NSA violating surveillance guidelines + bureaucrats have gone to or over the line of legality without informing the White House + Snowden was right when he said NSA can capture any call or email, should Obama create a Commission -- an updated Church Committee -- to review how to better monitor the spy agencies? Bob & Erick again agree that a drawn-out, public spectacle could help America's enemies. "But I am surprised that no one's been fired yet for mistakes made," adds Erick, a point John McCain repeats on Sunday. (We determine that the phrase "plausible deniability" was created by CIA director Allen Dulles under Ike, perfected under Nixon and not unknown to Obama.)

While the two panelists focus more on security than privacy, there's at the same time an evolving Left-Right alliance emerging between some libertarians and liberals that could pressure for more accountability and transparency. We agree that a possible deal would be for Rand Paul to fire his plagiarist(s) if Obama fires a bad apple at the NSA.

On Elections 2013.

Virginia: While Ken Cuccinelli tossed out lots of alibis election night -- almost-won-because-of-Obamacare! -- Bob and Erick agree that a so-so Democratic candidate beat a hard-right Republican in usually Red Virginia. That's a fact.

Erick thinks that GOP wing-nut E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor really hurt the entire Republican ticket while Bob emphasizes that the federal shutdown "skunked him in northern Virginia... A Cuccinelli could win governor 10 years ago but not now in state" where the white vote shrank from 78 percent of the electorate to 72 percent since the last election. Is Virginia a political canary in the Southern coal mine signaling a drift to more moderate candidates in border states, Florida and eventually Texas? Probably.

New Jersey: Why do Tea Party Republicans so hate Christie -- aren't winning and talent good things? Erick says that his more conservative friends think him an unreliable con on such issues as guns, immigration and Obamacare. But Bob shares that Christie's strong win over the little known Barbara Buono does not translate into something real against a Hillary Clinton (who in exit polls Tuesday led Christie for president 48-44 percent).

Then an un-PC question combining Christie's temperament and weight (what Time magazine called, in a triple entendre on its cover, "The Elephant in the Room"): When has a party nominated someone so publicly nasty or overweight in the past century? Bob thinks that if he yelled at a female teacher during a presidential run, "that could be a problem. What works in New Jersey may not in Iowa and South Carolina." Erick notes that all his pals who have dealt with the Governor and his staff report that he's the nicest among them.

As for his looks, the Host notes a piece by two behavioral psychologists in the New York Times arguing that the reason people often vote for attractive candidates (JFK, Reagan, Palin...) was because good looks correlated with good health in ancient societies when plagues wiped out populations. Erick sighs and says that his appearance -- weight reduction notwithstanding -- could affect some votes nationally though it won't be openly discussed.

Speaking of 2016 and with only 780 days until Iowa, is she now even stronger as a likely nominee and president after helping her pal MacAuliffe win in Virgina? Says Bob, "She has a huge lead and is way ahead of where she was even in 2007 and 2008. The only person now who could beat Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton, who won't be making the same mistakes. And those who hope that someone like Elizabeth Warren should run perhaps don't realize that Warren has already joined a letter supporting Hillary if she runs."

As New York City goes... Running against economic inequality, liberal Bill de Blasio easily won his nomination and then general election by 50 points over a credible Republican. Combining this margin with passage in NJ of minimum wage referendum, the Virginia result, unpopularity of the Tea Party shutdown and plummeting GOP polls -- and of course Obama's two decisive victories -- is American moving slightly left?

Bob and Erick agree, though the latter adds that the Republican brand is in worse shape than the Tea Party brand since GOP leaders are associated with the unpopular Wall Street and the big banks.

Whether the GOP or Tea Party is in worse shape may be a distinction without a difference given their overlap. Fact is, now that the last realignment has run its course -- the South from D to R, hence the House R majority -- it's hard out there for the GOP. When you've lost the popular vote in five of six presidential contests and in the combined votes for the Senate and House in 2012... and are trailing the other major party in popularity by 15 points... and are on the wrong side of 80 percent majorities on gun background checks, a path to citizenship, Social Security, climate change, campaign finance... and in a country growing browner and more urban, you have a problem.

Democrats are not without challenges. The shrinkage of organized labor is a big one. And the 2014 and 2016 elections will turn significantly on whether the American middle class has enjoyed real income growth. But it is now not unimaginable that if a Clinton-Castro ticket defeats Christie-Martinez in 2016 and stays eight years, during which period Democrats are in charge of redistricting after the 2010 Census, a New American Majority may dominate both presidential and congressional politics. OK, we're getting ahead of ourselves here. If trends were inevitable, NYC would be 10 feet deep in horse shit...

On Quick Takes: Obama's Apology, SNL and Race, Iran and Nukes

Erick and Bob agree that Obama was smart to "apologize" for dropped health care policies, though Erick can't resist noting that "he sounded like the guy saying he's sorry your dog is dead without admitting that he ran over it." Brushing off partisan cries of "liar," Bob assumes that "you can keep it" rhetoric migrated from HillaryCare to Obamacare without adequate questioning.

But when the website and dropped ("junk") policies crises are over, the only long-term issue will be whether 20-30 million more people get better health care at the same or lower prices, that health outcomes improve, and that health care costs abate to shrink the deficit.

We laugh at SNL's self-deprecating jokes why it hasn't hired a black woman in five years but Bob doesn't think it's all that funny. "Since the essence of the show is satire, which includes satire about minorities and women," it's a problem when they're not on stage representing themselves. Erick points out how liberals like Alec Baldwin often get a pass on such issues -- Bob says, "not from me... anyone who uses homophobic language should be called out for it."

At air time, there was momentum toward an emerging deal between the U.S. and Iran on reduced sanctions for the cessation of a nuclear weapons program. Would an eventual verifiable deal a) stop a dissatisfied Netanyahu from ordering unilateral attacks on such Iranian facilities and b) be a big breakthrough that even conservatives could laud? Bob says Yes to the first, Erick says Yes to the latter, though no bets are placed.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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