Thursday, April 23, 2009

NYT Columnists Assess Obama's First 100 Days

I pulled a Chana and transcribed an event that I went to: Gail Collins and David Brooks discussing Obama's first 100 days, hosted at Stern College. Prof. Bryan Daves of the Stern polisci department moderated the conversation. I nearly got carpal tunnel typing all this (the event was an hour and 40 minutes). Enjoy!

Any and all mistakes are mine.

DB = David Brooks
GC = Gail Collins
BD = Bryan Daves

BD: good evening and welcome. [intros himself] thanked benefactor and dean bacon. GC joined the NYT in 1995 as member of editorial board and then OpEd columnist. Since July 2007 – columnist at NYT. DB bio. Blah blah. Worked at the WSJ.

BD: start w/ a general overview. Obama said Reagan was transformative; FDR has also been mentioned that way. They have laid claim to a mandate. To what extent does Obama have a mandate?

DB: to be here is not my lifetime dream, but it’s my wife’s lifetime dream for me to be here. My parents were hippies in the 60s. my first step over to the right happened when I was 5 (took $5 bill from a burning garbage can). Married to a woman who converted; kids go to day school. Wife was thrilled that he is here. Promised gail that I wouldn’t use my jewishness against her as a home court advantage (put kippa on his head)

I think Obama has a tremendous chance to be transformative. White house staffer recently read me the schedule – ½ hr on afgahnistan, auto industry, healthcare – reorganizing the entire American economy. Put out many proposals. Will he achieve all this? He’s like a juggler who’s thrown a million knives in the air – will hurt when they all come down. He has run a competent administration – he’s young, was a mediocre senator – not automatic that he’d know what to do – but he has run a v. smooth and efficient operation – gives ppl a sense of his potential. FDR was transformative bec before him, ppl didn’t look naturally to washington to solve problems. Obama can change the line bet. private and public.

BD: what will be the nature of the change?

GC: when the campaign began, I first thought it would be abt if the country is willing to elect a woman. Turned out not to be abt that or abt race – was abt generational change which I felt was a little depressing. I also thought it might be generational bec. Clinton gave me this idea– after she lost, she said, gail, the days you were on the campaign plane were the best days for me – cuz it was the only x there was someone my age. I think in the end the reason barack obama won – despite the fact that his agenda was to the right of Clinton – he made ppl feel like he was for change and she was for 1992 – an emotional charge rather than a specific idea of what he wanted to do. By the general election, once economic crisis hit, he convinced ppl that he was the stable calm one that they could rely on – transformative and stable at the same x. If he could maintain the calm part and manage to get the agenda through – the agenda he’s talking abt now is similar to the campaign – talking abt healthcare a lot, more than he did on the campaign. Has bec the defining goal of this admin: saving healthcare. That’s a huge, huge thing. He’s honed in here on saving the middle class and shrinking the gap bet the middle class and the very rich.

BD: how diff is it form clintonism – focus on middle class, healthcare? Is it a matter of calmness or is there an ideological difference?

GC: hilary would have said no. it’s diff in that we are in a diff place in x, in history than we were back then. The idea of healthcare which for Clinton was a social goal, a fairness goal, has bec. for obama the center of his economic plan. I don’t think his ppl really think they can save any money unless they get the healthcare.

BD: what does this mean for the republican party?

GC/DB: what republican party? [she laughs]

BD: have x when you have defining political agendas that are paradigmatic. Q for GOP now is where do they go – is it reaganism, has it breathed its last breath? Where is it heading? How does it reinvent?

DB: Clinton presidency took place in x of immense prestige for free market. I think the obama admin has none of that. that doesn’t mean they are anti-market, but they think the problems are bigger than that and the economic problems delegitimized the idea that the free market is the most powerful entity. There is a hothouse intellectual atmosphere in which certain ppl leap to the fore – rahm emanuel, larry summers, Richard holbrooke – intellectual self-confidence that we need to do big stuff – they felt liberated to do more aggressive stuff than clinton ever would. They are super-intelligent. Lots of Harvard and Yale ppl there. The prob for GOP is that it is still a free market party. That’s good if you are fighting the USSR and socialism. Not good if you are fighting economy that is tanking bec of capitalists. GOP no really have a voice. The British conservative party does have a voice – said they would be socially oriented, want to shore up the institutions of society. That’s a viable way forward.

BD: are there any voices in GOP who are talking that way?

DB: very few, certainly not in Washington. GOP House and Senate members want change, they just don’t have the language – and the base problem – partly bec of Rush Limbaugh – there is no flexibility there. You look at John McCain – a person with total contempt for the party process. At the Senate lunches, the GOP gives out a message that they need to follow – McCain usually makes fun of it, but during the campaign he toed the party line.

BD: are they destined for the wilderness?

GC: they’re not doing well right now. They lost the election. But I’ve never seen a grp of ppl who have less of an agenda than these guys do right now. What you wind up with is – after this next election, and I predict that arlen specter will lose – they don’t have much left – it’s partly all the things that david said, partly gerrymandering – if you create these one-party districts, you will find ppl who only get elected from the truly nutcase districts, where you could get elected even if you walked around naked.

DB: I’m trying to think of arlen specter naked [laughter] thank you for the image.

BD: where does the energy – the ppl who made clinton’s campaign so viable?

GC: there were lots of groups behind it. one grp who came out thru the women’s lib movement who spent the last 40 years who said yes, sometime in my lifetime there will be a women’s president – for them the defeat was heartbreaking. They don’t know whether they ever will live to see a woman president. Hilary has bounced back. Not inconceivable that Hilary will run again. Sarah Palin will not win.

BD: did her selection help or hurt?

GC: Hurt. I am so ticked off abt Paterson. You can’t pick s/o so totally utterly ill-qualified if you are old like that. The great thing that Clinton did – ppl adapt really well – she got ppl used to the idea that it’s perfectly reasonable to think of a woman as commander in chief. That’s sort of her legacy. Sarah Palin showed that crazy women can be as nominated as crazy men can.

BD: is there a chance for a woman in the GOP in serious leadership roles?

DB: there are female senators. I don’t think Condi Rice is coming back.

GC: most of the women tend to be more moderate. I asked Olympia Snow why they didn’t pick her, she said ‘well john had to pick a person’ and then wandered off

BD: more grim topics – the amount of money that has been dedicated to dealing w/ the financial crisis – and whatever might else be coming down the pipe with the president meeting w/ credit card companies – there is a q if this will lead to a redefinition of the relationship between market and state – will this be a pendulum swing or are we looking at s/t completely different?

DB: let me start w/ the amt of $. I worry about Obama’s self-confidence – he is off the charts. The one thing that he said that was on the record – he was talking to an aide – ‘I want you to know that I’m a better political director than my directors, better speechwriter than my speechwriters, know a lot about policy, more than anyone else’ – lot of chutzpah. Leads to a degree of overreach – trying to redo a million other things. Trying to reorganize half the US economy w/ 8 ppl. Treasury hasn’t really appointed people – very understaffed. My other worry is the spending. Spending is appropriate during a recession – but we are at such a deficit – we will be generating trillions of dollars worth of deficit in the next 10 years. He is changing tax revenue, cap and trade, which would generate revenue; then he’s got a healthcare plan which is less than paid for. He’s spent money we don’t have in the past 100 days. My big fear is that we will ramp up huge amts of debt. This is why the Europeans did not want to do a big stimulus at the G20. A big word for Obama is responsibility – he is very aware of his spending. One thing he associates w/ the boomers is mismanagement – having a fight currently about the deficit – the ocean of red ink is the weakness in his proposal. The alternative is to take care of the crisis. I am not saying you can’t spend money. Do a payroll tax cut, jolt the economy – get some fiscal balance, then you take on the rest. FDR didn’t do social security until crisis was over – Obama decided he would do it all at once. Huge gamble for administration. Either big success or fatal hubris.

GC: congress is definitely a problem. The senate is the problem. House will do whatever Obama wants. What I most disagree with is that I think Obama is doing the responsible work. I think most ppl agree that you can’t fix economy w/o fixing healthcare. The out of control cost of healthcare – can’t really control them unless have an integrated national system. For him, to say that you’re going to fix economy and then not fix healthcare is like fixing a car and leaving a wheel off. Stuff that he doesn’t do right now isn’t going to get done. The way they see this all happening is that they do healthcare, maybe energy or at least a chunk, the deficit gets bigger – force congress to do s/t respectable. Opposite of Reagan. I do think Obama thinks that the deficit is going to get to a certain point and congress will be forced to raise taxes.

BD: didn’t the starve the beast image not work?

GC: gorge the beast is way easier – way easier to raise taxes than to cut spending – cutting spending involves tons of little fights over what is important to one person and not to another – you just look at how they are trying to save – very painful bec everything is separate. One swift shot of tax raising.

DB: I am pained. This is s/t I think we disagree w/ the most. We had a crappy healthcare for a long time and perfectly functioning markets – they are not connected. On raising taxes – obama promised he would not raise taxes on the bottom 95 percent. That was a –read my lips – pledge. It would be politically extremely hard to raise taxes. I think it’s also phenomenally hard to cut spending.

GC: had at that pt (in the Clinton admin? I didn’t quite catch this part) a national demand to do s/t about this. V. dangerous and hard – but if you have political support from populace – I think it’s really smart that Obama isn’t fighting for everything – smart that he gave in on many things – I think it’s because he wants to save his big fight for 1 or 2 things. Some things that he is proposing are so sensible – the college loan program – you’d have to be crazy not to want to reform it – unless there is a huge popular outcry to save it, it’s not going to happen bec there are very powerful lobbying interests that don’t want it to occur.

BD: what is motivating administration’s agenda – to get arms around crisis or to look further down the road? Criticism administration is getting from left is that they are not moving fast enough. Criticism from the right – spending too much too fast.

GC: david’s right – Tim Geithner is like the one kid whose parents don’t pick him up, he’s all by himself. Got really short-staffed to be making the decisions that he’s making. The amount of “hit the road running” that he’s had to do is tremendous. The other stuff – particularly healthcare – he’s not letting that go a tiny bit.

BD: another criticism was abroad – one of the major areas in which he wanted to make a very clear statement – on the q of torture. As the story has unfolded, the position of the administration had changed quite a bit – ‘we’re different from them’ to possible prosecution. Holding onto presidential power as it relates to state secrets – can you flesh out where the departure is from the previous administration?

DB: I actually think that in many foreign policy areas there is continuation. Torture issue – they felt they had to release the docs for legal reasons – Obama wanted to, many others did not – would set off an uncontrollable firestorm – that has been the case – it is a firm desire not to be aboutt prosecutions – will spend a year relitigating the last 7. Ppl have a high impatience – trying to damp down these issues so they can move on. I think that’s the right thing to do. I’m a big supporter of his Afghan policy. If Pakistan refuses to ___ their border it will fall apart in Afghanistan. They’re now being swept along in the anger about torture.

BD: in all the secrecy issues – were justified as necessary – cheney has been saying so w/ the torture memos – is there a problem of a knife’s edge walk for the admin?

GC: it’s a very tricky situation. Obama would never have become president if not for his antiwar speech. Now he’s right smack in the center of moderate foreign policy. He’s got some incredibly smart ppl working for him – doesn’t have an Iran policy because his basic argument was to go back to diplomacy. Still the same difficult ppl to deal w/. Some ppl the bush admin picked up were bad – don’t know what they’ll do w/ them. I was surprised by his ‘I’m not going to go there’ stance.

BD: is this a recognition of the difference bet campaigning and governing?

GC: partly that plus it’s always the way he was. Foreign policy statements always had to do w/ diplomacy – plus he hates dumb things – felt iraq was a dumb thing to do. Some stuff he just doesn’t know what to do.

DB: he said re Lebanon – admired george h.w. bush. The thing that struck me is that when you ask ppl in the white house – do these torture techniques yield intelligence? Hard to know the right answer to that. Hard to do policy when you’ve got a moral thing (immoral thing?) that may work.

GC: he believes a lot in transparency. Let e/o see it, let it open up – but he hops up against the rear – during campaign, wanted to let e/o negotiate so ppl could see them. Not happening the way he envisioned. That’s on of the real world things.

DB: as I mentioned, I think the confidence w/ which they are doing e/t is impressive. Has to do w/ rahm emanuel. He’s very confrontational – interrupts w/ a lot of fury – lost his middle finger in an deli accident – Obama jokes he was rendered mute. He cares intensely about education – bec he’s afraid that American students are cursing at a 4th grade level. He’s a key player bec he’s not na├»ve about Washington. He’s the one doing a lot of backroom deals and it’s quite effective.

BD: please pass up audience q’s. On foreign policy front, one of the first things obama did was give interview to ____ - what’s with iran? Requires a partner – one of the criticisms of obama during campaign was that there is n/t to discuss. Can you talk abt iran?

DB: I spent two weeks in Israel. Interviewed a lot of ppl, particularly in foreign ministry – they were okay w/ the dialogue, the argument was the deadline on it. They feel dialogue will fail, and then what? I personally think it’s hopeless – we know e/o in the Iranian gov’t wants nuclear weapons. China won’t stop them. This will galvanize the Middle East – arab countries will see iran as a champion. Bibi Netanyahu will be peace now, Israeli opinion will shift. I happen to think Iran is deterable, don’t think they’ll launch a bomb at Israel. Ppl have peace processes that are oblivious to realities on the ground. Iran is making a bomb.

BD: concern is that there is a limited timeline – Israelis will run out of patience and bec more concerned – the US won’t have any more control or influence. What will Europeans do? Diplomacy takes away their excuses – will they cooperate more?

GC: I’m sure they’ll try a little harder. I agree w/ David that it is difficult to imagine that the bomb won’t get built – the idea of blowing up the bomb before it gets built would be terrific if we could find it and get rid of it in one fell swoop – I have not met a/o who thinks that can happen. The Saudis more than the Israelis are scared about having a neighbor w/ a bomb. It’s gonaa be a long thing. Obama will have to be thinking about a whole new paradigm – wider global effort to disarm everybody – that’s part of the reason I think he’s moving the way he is.

DB: I agree no one had a solution, but if you are the president under which Iran gets a bomb, that will be a big shock. There’s a national process of assuming they are more moderate. Psychological shift about Iran is gonna come. Iran is #2 worry after Pakistan.

BD: women in afghanistan and pakistan – signing agreements that will be at odds with entire spectrum in American public – I don’t think they have come to grips with this themselves.

GC: the women get thrown under the bus unless we occupy it. Talk about good Taliban … (I didn’t catch some of what she said) these women are being abandoned.

DB: we’ve talked about this. I think it’s possible we’re throwing them under the bus. Two caveats: women had a rally – were in favor of bad laws against them. Our main concern is not getting Americans killed. If it means not offending them on this issue, it’s so horrible, but that might be what we have to do. First thing to worry about is the bomb, not getting Americans killed – although that is a horrible position, which I acknowledge. My son wants to go to Afghanistan. Everywhere we are, we are a presence on that society.

BD: centrist return to realism – how will this affect foreign policy?

DB: my line would be that if you look where foreign policy is moving – get e/o involved in nation building – the generals want to talk about police forces. Wrong to have a military that does high diplomacy and blows things up – want to build capacities for local governments in places like Iraq. That’s not ignoring human rights. I was talking w/ Israeli gov’t about west bank – they say we have to build capacity, police, econ and social development.

BD: given budget demands in US –how can we do nation building?

GC: we’re supposed to be out of iraq. They’ve got that in the budget. I think David’s right but unless you count the fact that the women are going to remain in subjugation – other than that, they’re committed to that. I don’t know down the road whether ppl get really ticked off if ppl get upset economically why the heck are we in Afghanistan.

BD: do you think Clinton will push women under the bus?

GC: no but I don’t think I see anything happening out of the agenda that we are pushing. Bush agenda was so out of touch with reality that it’s gotten us to this point now.

BD: obama’s approach to arab and muslim worlds – Senator Mitchell as listening envoy – is this going to go anywhere or is this a sudden start and serious stop? If George Bush 41 is obama’s model – will Obama also be withholding funds?

DB: no love lost between arab government and obama. Need a peace process to keep ppl happy. No possible chance of it succeeding. No peace because have no partner. Always a process and it never goes anywhere. Main effort is to keep Hamas out of west bank.

BD: two state solution – kind of dying – limited amt of x til that’s going to work

DB: doesn’t change fact that Hamas exists.

BD: q’s from audience. What would the world be like if McCain had won?

GC: sarah palin VP = bad.

DB: she’d be running citigroup. I’ve been keeping it a secret who I voted for. John McCain and I shot craps at a casino. One respects that. I will say 2 things: he is phenomenally honest. He’ll do things that are cheap and bad but he’ll admit it. He is not a domestic policy person. Doesn’t read his speeches in advance on domestic stuff – not his natural instinct. He would not have done nearly as well as Obama. He would not have spent as much $. But handling things – frankly it’s hard for me to see him doing it. I think obama’s ability to absorb 800 facts on one thing and then 800 facts on another – that’s needed right now.

GC: when I thought abt the generational thing, I thought that when you get to certain age, are less good about being flexible – in that campaign, John McCain came to run on Iraq and conservative fiscal policies. When economy fell apart, he appeared to be in genuine distress. None of his brainpower, nothing in being a soldier or senator – it just wasn’t there. It did make me think that this is a guy who is too old to be president.

DB: most ppl never recover from losing. Kerry will talk to you for an hour about what he would have done. It’s hard when the country rejects you. McCain is happy and productive. He can go back to screaming at ppl. it’s part of his natural balanceness.

GC: McGovern told Mondale – never get over from losing.

DB: I have Mondale story [GC – really??] – Mondale and two rabbis walk into a bar [GC laughs] – did well in a debate, goes to issues director – still knew he was going to lose. Sense of realism and pathos. My view of politicians is that they are afraid to be alone, GOP senator had his hand on my thigh – Dan Quayle and some other guy were very affectionate.

GC: the weirdest – the only time George Bush came for an interview – huge meeting – all these ppl – sitting next to the NYT publisher and Bob Herbert – Bob wasn’t kind to bush – bush was petting him – freaked bob out. Never saw him at a loss except that day.

BD: # of q’s related to politicians. Lost VP biden – he was gonna be the experienced hand at foreign policy – where’d he go?

GC: my impression is that he does get to be in on some of the big meetings where things are being discussed. He meets w/ Obama once a week. The foreign policy arena is really crowded in this administration. I don’t think he has much to do w/ it. I have the very strong impression he’s happy though.

DB: I think he is going to Romanian national day – I want to ask him what he’s doing. If I go back over conversations – he’s rarely mentioned – the only place where I know there was a big Biden push was Afghanistan. He’s not making the big decisions. He lacks what obama values – intellectual incandescence – the guys who can dominate the room on pure intellect.

BD: given that Biden did not want to be Cheney – there have been q’s regarding the bush administration – how much of that had to do with Cheney, how much was bush? Especially in light of cheney’s recent comments.

GC: Joe Biden would never have been able to be Cheney.

DB: There was an evolution of the Bush-Cheney relationship. No one knows how it was. Cheney never spoke in a meeting. Did e/t privately. I am positive Cheney was running things by the second term. Bush administration began to talk negatively about him in 2nd term – disdain for cheney. Took him forever to make a judgment on Rumsfeld.

BD: many administrations are a reaction from their predecessors – vetting process of obama’s admin – slowing things down – have they set standards too high?

DB: The short answer is yes. Two problems – one is they have no lobbyists. Most lobbyists are perfectly good ppl who know about policy. 80% of ppl don’t pay their taxes – not letting ppl in for lax on taxes. I am pro-corruption – I am for bastards who can do the job. They have set the bar so high they just can’t get a/o. also, if join admin, have to sell out all your stocks and take a big paycut – bad x to do that – they’re just not getting ppl.

BD: and good government?

GC: they argue that a lot of the tax stuff is coming out of the senate and they are trying to protect their ppl from their auditors. I’m into the transparency thing. I think that it’s good for ppl go know that others screw up on their taxes – let it be out there, pay it back – some could have been handled better. Every admin has a hard time w/ this stuff. Just bec we have such a mess now that we have so much consciousness of this.

BD: or is it that Obama prided himself on cabinet appointments being done so far in advance? Geithner is alone.

DB: takes 10 ppl to run the administration. Decision making very tightly controlled in the admin. Execution of policy once decisions are made – getting ppl to actually execute policy – that they are well behind on. So many academic economists think they can plug it into the model and it’ll go quick – agencies aren’t that quick.

BD: couple q’s re media – the way in which it has been covering financial crisis has pretty much indicted the whole industry. Is some of this a result of the media?

GC: preface this w/ the other complaint of ‘why didn’t media pick up on a lot of this?’ Well, they did – NYT wrote about housing crisis three years ago – tons of coverage about housing bubble – we live in a time in which its very easy – there’s a proliferation of media – if you’ve got media that has a massive capitalization – huge amts of $, could be sued – have a certain tone bec are afraid of losing $. If you’re a blog or a network news channel, times like this media gets really shrill, bec e/o is competing for attention in a really huge crowd. Many of those competing don’t have a/t to lose. Everything about the media now is incredibly loud and shrill, not be we’ve lost our moral compass, but bec of the nature of the economic beast. The stuff that happened was so irresponsible that it naturally made ppl crazy. Politicians responding to that behaved inevitably – the AIG bonuses – heard politicians competing to sound crazier – didn’t help at all. It’s unfortunate, the extent to which media contributed to that.

DB: there have been some outstanding stories. As for a pitchfork crusade – most media ppl support that.

BD: not that jon stewart is the ombudsman or whatever – but his interview on CNBC and rick santelli’s outburst – for some financial media – they were cheerleaders for making entertainment out of what is very serious and, for some, dry news.

GC: be doing both – media paying attention to foundation of crises – jim cramer looked so guilty (I didn’t catch most of what she said).

DB: Stewart watches TV all day for his job – more ppl own ferrets than watch Fox news, CNBC is tiny – Stewart’s a little obsessed. With the volume off I find jim cramer hilarious. Santelli, btw, the admin bashed him and then started echoing his line. We all consume different parts of the media. We all know what’s valuable and what’s not, or at least most of us do. The media is rarely to blame for public shifts of opinion. Went to a sexologist conference (a more boring crowd of people you will never meet) – we all think there was a big change of attitude towards sex in the 60s, really it was minimal – really it was the world wars that changed behaviors – ppl went overseas and that changed their behaviors. Ppl have deeply ingrained views. I don’t think we dramatically change behavior. We try to crystallize half-formed thoughts.

GC: Krugman tries to change views. If you pick up on some little thing and mention it 500 times, they will pick up on it in the mass media. One of the most profound differences in our lives now and our lives in America – used to be three channels, e/o had the same references - now e/o watches s/t different. So few things that e/o gets – if s/t comes up, like AIG bonuses or Illinois governor – so few frames of reference.

BD: relationship of press to obama admin – media fell in love w/ him. Has that honeymoon ended?

GC: John McCain, so gaga-ed by the media – ran a terrible campaign and that showed in the coverage. During the campaign, obama didn’t have close relationships w/ ppl in the media – even his staff they weren’t hanging out w/ ppl. what was interesting was that obama was so diff and new that e/o gravitated towards that new story. Clinton was so not new that she suffered bec of that. I truly think that as this admin goes on and makes mistakes, you find them complaining about the media too.

DB: obama was not very open w/ the media, staff was kind of boring, they were nice though. If you look at core demographic that went gaga over obama – highly educated ppl who live on the coast – same as the ppl who work in media.

BD: obama campaign worked very hard to reach out to jewish community, were concerned about how they were being perceived – sense of anxiety of what is potentially coming – re Iran, Israel – is obama admin going to be standing by Israel as its ally in the middle east and how will that be different from bush admin?

GC: no desire on part of obama admin to do a/t that would offend Israel – but is not the top thing on their radar – I don’t think they think they have time – got so many other problems. They’ll be happy to keep the status quo as long as possible.

DB: it will eventually involve a wide rift on Iran. If Bibi’s gov’t fails – Israeli consensus is very anxious about iran. That anxiety is not felt here. I wouldn’t write this bec I’m not totally positive of it – Dennis Ross, whom I think highly of, there’s a perception that he was hired bec the Jews wanted him but now they don’t want to use him – but he’s savvy about foreign policy – that is a little sign of a rift. Hilary Clinton understands the Israeli position, but it will not be a warm relationship and could turn frosty, even if Livni wins – there’s a difference of salience and panic about Iran.

GC: how would that panic translate?

DB: do you put Iran before other issues, how much you want to pressure them. Could get into settlement fights and zillion things.

GC: settlement fights?

DB: not loan guarantee-type fights, but there will be statements made. I think statements would be made to please – the Saudis will ask them to say this and that’s not s/t bush would have done.

BD: advice for obama admin for next three years? What should their centerpiece be?

DB: education policy is great. One of the best we’ve had. I would focus on poverty. Obama talked about spreading harlem children zones – other thing I would say is focus a few years on gigantic mistakes. Education opportunity is key.

GC: in a perfect world, I’d tell them to go past education and talk about women – nearly 50% of workforce is female, lots of single mothers – we’ve never tried to figure out who takes care of the children. Michelle Obama was gonna make that the centerpiece issue – got discouraged about getting any serious solution. Try to figure out how to reform tax policy and reduce inequities and curb the deficit.

BD: thank you DB and GC and also audience.