Roland Martin, April Ryan, Robert Traynham, Cynthia Tucker and George Curry discuss this week’s hot topics during the Washington Watch roundtable discussion.
There’s a lot to talk about this week, and it’s not all Herman Cain. Here at our roundtable: April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks; Robert Traynham, Washington bureau chief for the Comcast Network; syndicated columnist Cynthia Tucker I her nice leather jacket – [chuckling] – and syndicated columnist –
MS. RYAN: It’s beautiful.
MR. MARTIN: — George Curry.
All right, folks. You know I had to go ahead and say something, now.
MR. MARTIN: All right, le- —
MS. RYAN: Fashion police.
MR. MARTIN: — le- — hey, let’s – let’s get right to it.
MR. MARTIN: The GOP debate – it was quite interesting, and the moment I think we’ll all be talking about – it certainly blew up Twitter – was this.
GOV. RICK PERRY: And I will tell you. It’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education and the, um, uh – what’s the third one there? Let’s see.
GOV. PERRY: Com- —
REP. RON PAUL: You mean[?] five.
GOV. PERRY: [Chuckles.] Oh, five. Okay.
REP. PAUL: [Crosstalk] – make it five.
GOV. PERRY: So, Commerce, Education and, uh, the, um, um, uh –
OFF CAMERA: EPA?
GOV. PERRY: — EPA. There ya go. No – [unintelligible].
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN: Let’s talk – let’s talk – [crosstalk].
MR. JOHN HARWOOD: Seriously?
[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE.]
MR. HARWOOD: Is EPA the one you were talking about? Or –
GOV. PERRY: No, sir. No, sir. We were talking about the, um, agencies of government – EPA needs to be rebuilt. There’s no doubt about –
MR. HARWOOD: But you can’t –
GOV. PERRY: — that.
MR. HARWOOD: — but you can’t name the third one?
GOV. PERRY: The third agency of government?
MR. HARWOOD: Yes.
GOV. PERRY: I would – I would do away with Education, uh, the, uh –
OFF CAMERA: Commerce.
GOV. PERRY: — I – I – C- — Commerce and let’s see. I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry.
GOV. PERRY: Oops.
[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]
MS. RYAN: Um!
MR. MARTIN: “Oops.”
MR. ROBERT TRAYNHAM: But you know what, Roland? Can I – can I answer this.
MR. MARTIN: Well, later –
MR. TRAYNHAM: I – I don’t e- — I don’t –
MR. MARTIN: — it wa- —
MR. TRAYNHAM: — even know what the question –
MR. MARTIN: — later, it –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — is, but –
MR. MARTIN: — wasn’t EPA. He later said it was Department of Energy.
MR. GEORGE CURRY: Right.
MR. MARTIN: That was bad!
MR. TRAYNHAM: — it was – it was horrible. But look. Let’s look at this globally. Everyone in front of the camera has brain freezes. Everyone who –
OFF CAMERA: [Crosstalk.]
MR. TRAYNHAM: — speaks – hold on. Everyone who speaks obviously stumbles every now and then. We all do it. We’re all human. Here’s the issue with – with Rick Perry. Going into this debate, the perception has been that hi- — he does not have the horsepower. The perception has been – is that debates are not his strongest strength. The perception has always been – is that, “You know what? Perhaps, maybe he’s a little loosey-goosey with the facts.
MS. RYAN: “Loosey-goosey”? [Chuckles.]
MR. TRAYNHAM: So – so, go- — [chuckles] – so, going into this debate, the expectations were very, very high. He clearly missed the ball.
MS. RYAN: All right. Uh-ruh, uh-ruh – yes, we do have brain freezes sometimes, but it goes to the issue, “do you believe this?” Does he believe it? And apparently, he didn’t – he was ill prepared. His team did not serve him well. He went in there not understanding what he had to do. This was his time to show up, and he didn’t. He fell on his face.
MR. CURRY: I don’t –
MS. CYNTHIA TUCKER: April –
MR. CURRY: — think –
MS. TUCKER: — I don’t think it’s his team’s fault.
MS. RYAN: You don’t?
MS. TUCKER: I really don’t. We were talking about – you were talking about the perception that he doesn’t have the horsepower. He doesn’t have the horsepower! It’s now –
MS. RYAN: He doesn’t have the horse either.
MR. CURRY: [Chuckles.]
MS. RYAN: [Chuckles.]
MS. TUCKER: He can’t – his – you – I – I – I will bet you that, given a string of poor debate performances, his team has had him in a room somewhere, coaching him, working with him; but he cannot get through his prepared responses. And it is true that a moment like this would not have hurt a Mitt Romney. The perception is that Ri- — Mitt Romney is bright. It wouldn’t ‘ve hurt him. But given the perceptions that linger around Rick Perry, I don’t see how he can come –
MR. MARTIN: George –
MS. TUCKER: — back from this.
MR. MARTIN: — what really stood out – I remember when they had all the talk about Perry getting in the race. And look. Native of Texas, I remember, you know, him be- — of course, being elected – one of the first offices. I said this is like the NFL draft, where you come out of college, and you’re a stud, and people say on paper, “Oh, man. You’re great.” But when you go to the NFL, you might be a JaMarcus Russell. You might be a total bust. And I said we can’t get excited about what it looks like in paper. It’s what happe- – happens when you get in the game. And I said then he has to go through all these debates, has to go through campaigning. Then we’ll actually see.
We’re seeing why there is an electoral process, why you can’t just jump in three months out and somehow think “I got this.” That’s why six, nine months a year – why you have to get in early enough to go through all of these different things versus what Perry tried to do, [which] is hop in at the last second and figure “I can wing it.”
MR. CURRY: Well, first of all, I – I disagree with Robert. I – I think there were low expectations. Nobody expected him to be a shining debater. Please. We saw his performance before now. And I – and he had a lot going – weighing on this debate, because he had done so poorly in the past. And so to get up there and lose yourself for almost a minute and have no clue to even what planet you’re on –
MR. CURRY: — I think he’s – you know, he – he’s a – there’s a part of a horse that you refer to that he – he looked like.
MR. MARTIN: Some [crosstalk] –
MS. RYAN: [Laughs.]
MS. TUCKER: [Laughs.]
MR. MARTIN: — sugge- — somethi- — something also jumped out at me as –
MS. RYAN: I said he didn’t have –
MR. MARTIN: — as – a- —
MS. RYAN: — the horse. [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: — something also jumped out at me as I watched this debate, a- — and I listened to them talk about housing, and I listened to all of these candidates. And it was amazing that Cong. Ron Paul was the only candidate on the stage willing to challenge the banks for their role –
MR. CURRY: Um-hum.
MR. MARTIN: — in this whole housing debacle. They all went after Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and then talked – the- — talked about the fact that they were the cause, but Pres. George W. Bush was a huge advocate of those very institutions when it came to housing.
MS. TUCKER: But, you know, I have been watching that in every, single debate. I have to tell you – first of all, let me just say there were some very good questions –
MR. CURRY: Oh, yeah.
MS.TUCKER: — asked last night –
MR. MARTIN: Absolutely.
MS. TUCKER: — about the global economy. Very few answers were given. Somebody asked a question about the global economy – what’s happening in – in Europe with the euro, and very few of them even tried to answer that question. I’m not even sure how many of them know –
MS. RYAN: Understood.
MS. TUCKER: — about the –
MS. RYAN: That’s right.
MS. TUCKER: — euro crisis. But this business of not blaming Wall Street and the banks at all for the housing crisis; it’s all the government – I have been watching the Republicans say that since the very first debate. It is an alternative universe. I am amazed. You know, the government — whatever has happened wrong in this country, the government did it: “I don’t like the way my hair looks today.” “Government did it.”
MS. RYAN: [Laughs.]
MR. MARTIN: I believe that them fau- — going down this line plays right into Pres. Obama’s hands, because when you look at Occupy Wall Street, when you look at what took place in Ohio this week when it came to collective bargaining, there’s an anger in this country; and the Republicans have set themselves up as being the party that says, “We will not criticize the rich. We will not criticize Wall Street. We will only say it’s Fannie and Freddie.” When you had Newt Gi- — Gingrich onstage, who took 300 grand –
MS. RYAN: Yes!
MR. MARTIN: — from o- —
MR. CURRY: It’s not –
MR. MARTIN: — and then said, “I gave advice” – I mean it’s – it’s c- — whe- — whe- — when you – when you can’t even say they had a role in it, that, to me, spells –
MR. CURRY: — that –
MR. MARTIN: — disaster.
MR. CURRY: — particularly, when Newt’s position – your friend Newt, your homeboy –
MS. TUCKER: [Chuckles.]
MR. CURRY: — [chuckles] – is that – you know, that – that’s to- — total denial. And they are really missing – they are so out of touch with the American people, if they don’t understand the genuine –
MR. TRAYNHAM: I – I think –
MR. CURRY: — anger there.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — I – I think — well, I think what – what we need to focus on is that this is a Republican primary conversation, so this is a conversation within the family. I guarantee that –
MS. RYAN: Whose family?
MR. TRAYNHAM: — that who – within the Republican family –
MR. CURRY: His family.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — right about now.
MS. RYAN: Okay.
MR. TRAYNHAM: And so — well, regardless of whether it’s my family or not, it’s the Republican family, and this is an internal conversation. We saw –
MR. MARTIN: But –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — the –
MR. MARTIN: — Robert, even –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — we – we –
MR. MARTIN: — Republicans recognize – Republicans in red states recogni- — are also getting screwed by banks. And so when you can’t even say they had a role in the problem, that’s a problem.
MS. RYAN: The issue is the process – how do we fix it. And that’s what the – the – both sides are fighting about.
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. RYAN: People don’t – the Democrats say we need revenue. The Republicans are saying no. And this is not – the President can’t – this is not the time for the President to shine. He realizes there is a fierce group of Republicans that feel that he’s doing it so wrong, they’ll go with anybody –
MR. MARTIN: Speak- —
MS. RYAN: — right now.
MR. MARTIN: — speak- — a- — and –
MS. RYAN: And the President –
MR. MARTIN: — and loo- — and – and –
MS. RYAN: — but wait a minute.
MR. MARTIN: — look. If e- –
MS. RYAN: The President right now – they realize this is going to be tight whoever they decide –
MR. MARTIN: — and – and look. And look.
MS. RYAN: — he will –
MR. MARTIN: Spea- —
MS. RYAN: — go against.
MR. MARTIN: — speaking of that, in the debate the question came up, to Herman Cain, as relates to sexual harassment al- — allegations.
MS. RYAN: Oh, Lord.
MR. MARTIN: The crowd started booing. We’ve s- — we – we saw his news conference this week, where he addressed it, opened himself up to even some more criticism in terms of a lie detector test. Is it your understanding that, basically, GOP voters are saying, “Look. You know what? We don’t” – “[It] doesn’t even matter”?
MR. TRAYNHAM: I don’t –
MR. MARTIN: “Doesn’t even matter.”
MR. TRAYNHAM: — know – I don’t know if GOP voters think that. I think what GOP voters think is that, “You know what? You’re innocent until proven guilty.” “You know what? This is really a he-said-she-said thing.”
Now, let me be very clear. Sexual harassment is an extremely, extremely, extremely hor- — horrific thing for anyone to go through. And so what I think Republican voters are saying [is], “You know what? Let’s give this man the benefit of the doubt.”
MR. MARTIN: [Unintelligible]?
MR. TRAYNHAM: Wha- — bu- — and s- – and so having said that, “We’re still going to continue to stand by him.” The question becomes – is whether or not these Republican voters will continue to stand by him –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — in the days to come. If – If –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — it’s – [crosstalk] – hold on. Hold on. Hold on.
MR. MARTIN: But also –
MR. TRAYNHAM: It’s evidenced –
MR. MARTIN: — Cain –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — it’s evidenced by the m- — the amount of money that he’s gotten. It’s evidenced by the polling data that we’re –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — that we’re looking at.
MR. MARTIN: — but also, ca- — Robert, though, can he stay in the debate and call Nancy Pelosi “princess”?
MR. TRAYNHAM: Well, that’s –
MR. MARTIN: Can he –
MS. RYAN: No.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — totally deroga- —
MR. MARTIN: — attack the –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — -tory.
MR. MARTIN: — character of –
MS. RYAN: No, he –
MR. MARTIN: — women – [crosstalk] –
MS. RYAN: — cannot.
MR. CURRY: Listen, listen, listen. Listen.
OFF CAMERA: Especially – especially –
MR. CURRY: Listen. It’s – this is not a he-said-she-said – [unintelligible]. It’s “he said, she said, she said, she said, she said”!
MR. MARTIN: I want to switch. The White House had a conference this week –
MS. RYAN: Yes, it did.
MR. MARTIN: — targeting – in terms of what they’ve done for African-Americans. I couldn’t attend. I was under the weather.
Cynthia, you were there. You were s- — first of all, here’s what the President had to say when he spoke to those assembled. Then I want to come back and just talk – talk about your thoughts on why – why they held it, and why they held it now.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: — a report that has been prepared. It is a compilation of everything we’ve done over the last three years that has not only lessened the severity of the crisis for millions of people; kept millions of folks out of poverty; made sure that millions of folks still had unemployment benefits, healthcare, et cetera; but also talks about the foundations that we are laying so that as the economy recovers, the African-American community and communities all across the country of every stripe are going to have an opportunity to finally begin to rebuild.
[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. MARTIN: But, April, you were there.
MS. RYAN: I was there.
MS. RYAN: I was there. I was with – I actually walked in with the President ‘cause I had pulled[?] duty that day. It was very interesting. The – the crowd – to include MLK, III – Martin Luther King, III – Freddy Haynes – Pastor Freddy Haynes from Dallas, Roz Brock from the NAACP. They were there, including Congresswoman Edwards, CBC member. And – and it’s interesting. They laid out – the White House laid out all the accomplishments for the Black community, and then when the President walked in, the crowd went – went berserk. They went crazy over him, and it was like I was seeing the rock-star-in-chief come back. It was interesting. They talked about, you know, the business part, where – you know, years ago, we used to have 30 to 45 days before businesses would get paid by the federal government. Now it’s 15 days –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. RYAN: — and they talked about housing and what they’re trying to do to fix housing issues. They talked about the economy. They talked about so many different things.
MR. MARTIN: Why – why do you think they held it?
MS. TUCKER: Well, for obvious reasons. [Chuckles.]
MR. TRAYNHAM: Reelection.
MS. TUCKER: You know – you know –
MS. RYAN: Show ‘em the – [crosstalk].
MS. TUCKER: — the –
MS. RYAN: [Chuckles.]
MS. TUCKER: — the President – a – a couple of things. For all of the harsh criticism that the President has gotten from some leading Black intellectuals, from members of the CBC, actually, rank-and-file, Black voters are v- — are solidly behind him – in fact, so much so, that some CBC members who have criticized the President are drawing primary challengers based on that alone. I am – challengers are saying, “This person criticized the President. I’m not going to do that.”
However, the President does have to worry about that enthusiasm gap. When asked, Black voters say, “Absolutely, I am behind the President,” but the fact of the matter is average Black folk are struggling with high unemployment rates, foreclosures.
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. TUCKER: Will they bother to turn out on Election Day in 2012?
MR. MARTIN: George, final comment.
MR. CURRY: Certainly, the President realized that he’s not going to win this without mobiliz[ing] his base, and – and the base has been shaken. The – yeah, you – most Bl- — African-Americans say, “I’m for him,” but they – they do raise questions about him. So, I think he’s going to solidify his base, because that’s the only way he can possibly win.
MR. MARTIN: And speaking of what you say, a Latino poll came out this week. Same thing. Significant support among Latinos over the GOP candidates, but the enthusiasm gap for Latinos – same issue there.