Former Democratic aide turned journalist George Stephanopoulos interviewed current Democratic operative James Carville on Monday's Good Morning America. The two good friends agreed that Democrats simply have to pass a health care bill. Stephanopoulos wondered, "Do the Democrats really have a choice here?"
He later spun, "...The Democrats in the White House who are pushing for this strategy, pushing for passage, say that once this does pass, the country will get it. Democrats will be unified. They'll get a huge benefit." [Audio available here.]
Stephanopoulos minimized the negative effects for the party in passing a government-run health care bill by one or two votes and with no Republican support. Former top advisor to George W. Bush Matthew Dowd also appeared and offered this odd suggestion: "Well, if you're a Republican, I think they should try as hard as they can and jam it through and pass the bill. I think as a Republican, that's what you want to see happen because of how unpopular this measure is."
Many Republicans certainly hope Democrats exert effort on the legislation in a failing effort. But, they want it jammed through? This is the best guest that ABC could find to voice the right-leaning position? As Stephanopoulos noted in the intro, Dowd has also advised Democratic politicians. Most conservatives are not looking forward to the bill passing, no matter what the political benefits are.
Carville provided a surprisingly bleak analysis for his party. He described the possibility that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could round up enough votes as not impossible, but "daunting."
The ex-Clinton operative summed up the effects of failure this way:
JAMES CARVILLE: If it goes down, it's going to be a simple statement: The Democrats can't govern. They came in with a majority promising health care and they came away with nothing. How can you trust them to do anything else? And I have to tell you, as a Democrat, that measure frightens me. And to some extent, it will be probably true. And we're going to have to acknowledge that.
Stephanopoulos closed by attempting to assign blame on the Republicans if health care doesn't pass: "But, the Republicans went to great pains at the summit last week to show they have alternate ideas. If they end up with nothing, won't it blow back on them?" In this case, it seems as though Carville offered a more realistic assessment than his journalist friend.
A transcript of the March 1 segment, which aired at 7:09am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: For more on this, we're now joined by Democratic strategist James Carville and our own political contributor Matthew Dowd, who was a top advisor to President George W. Bush and also several Democrats. And, James, let me begin with you, are you as confident as Speaker Pelosi that Democrats have the votes?
JAMES CARVILLE: No. But, I'm glad to hear that she's confident. I guess she knows more about where the votes are than everybody else. But, the math is pretty daunting. I don't think it's impossible, but it's going to be difficult. This is going to be a real, real fight. It's fascinating, we'll see.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Matthew, you think the Democrats shouldn't even try, huh?
MATTHEW DOWD: Well, if you're a Republican, I think they should try as hard as they can and jam it through and pass the bill. I think as a Republican, that's what you want to see happen because of how unpopular this measure is. So, I don't know if she has the votes. I think the problem is the moderate Democrats who voted for this bill a few months back, but now the political environment has changed dramatically. I don't know if she can keep those. But, Republicans like this bill to pass because they know how unpopular it is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, and, and, James, that is the biggest problem for the Speaker right now. You have got a lot of Democrats who actually voted yes before, but now say they have big problems with the bill. But, does the President- Do the Democrats have really have a choice right here? They seem to have made the calculation that they don't- that if they just fold now, that it's going to be much worse for them politically and much worse for the country.
CARVILLE: It would. And if the bill loses, it will prove Senator DeMint right. It will, I think, by and large, be a lot of the President's Waterloo. And I think a lot of Democrats understand that. I give credit to ABC's report which said the Republicans and the insurance industry are going to attack this hard. The Republicans and the insurance industry have joined together to protect the status quo and American health care. And I think the Democrats need to realize that there's some political value in taking this on. But, they haven't done a very good job of framing this issue. But, you know, I think they can do better coming down the stretch. This is, not to use a sports metaphor here, but we're in overtime in this hockey game.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Matthew, the Democrats in the White House who are pushing for this strategy, pushing for passage, say that once this does pass, the country will get it. Democrats will be unified. They'll get a huge benefit.
DOWD: Well, I think the benefits of this bill, if you look at the actual specifics aren't going to take place for many years, the real benefits of this bill. And I think the problem for the administration is, even if they pass this bill, they don't want to spend months trying to sell an unpopular bill. They want to talk about the economy and jobs. That's the Catch-22 situation they're in. They think they have to pass the bill, but they don't want to spend time talking about this bill, since they know there's another issue, jobs, that everybody cares about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, James, the other Catch-22 here is that a lot of the Democrats who are going to take this tough vote may be doomed anyway this year because the political winds are so heavy for them?
CARVILLE: Yeah, but I tell you what it is. If it goes down, it's going to be a simple statement: The Democrats can't govern. They came in with a majority promising health care and they came away with nothing. How can you trust them to do anything else? And I have to tell you, as a Democrat, that measure frightens me. And to some extent, it will be probably true. And we're going to have to acknowledge that. When you're a governing party, and you have majorities like we do and you have the President, sometimes you got to step up and do something. I suspect this is one of these times we're going to see how effective our leaders are. We're going to see how effective the White House can be in pushing this through. But, I mean, it's crunch time out there. I don't think anybody can doubt that. This is very tough. But if this doesn't get done, it will hurt the Democratic Party. There's no doubt about that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Matthew, how about for the Republicans? Obviously, the bill is, overall, the comprehensive bill is unpopular right now. But, the Republicans went to great pains at the summit last week to show they have alternate ideas. If they end up with nothing, won't it blow back on them?
DOWD: Well, I think the Republicans can't be put in the position, which I think they were at the end of the last year, of being totally opposed to any health care reform. The vast majority of the country wants health care reform. They want it. They know the insurance companies have to reform. They know costs have to be controlled. So, the Republicans have to continue to say, "We have ideas. We have ideas. This is a bad bill, but we have ideas." If they get caught in the cross-hairs of saying they're totally opposed to reform, then it's a political problem for them. But, right now, it's all upside for the Republicans. Whether the bill passes or fails, it seems to be all upside right now for the Republicans.