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Week In Politics: Shutdown Post-Mortem And Looking Ahead


And we'll continue our discussion about the politics of the week with our Friday regulars, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution. Hey there, E.J.

E.J. DIONNE: Good to be with you.

CORNISH: And David Brooks of the New York Times. Hey, David.


CORNISH: So we heard earlier in the piece by Don Gonyea about Tea Party activists. They were talking about the latest fiscal battle, basically leaving them more energized and this leads us up to Capitol Hill where Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, one of their heroes, led the charge in the Senate in terms of this big shutdown debate. And he did a sit-down interview with ABC News where he was asked how much do your colleagues basically dislike you on the House floor at this point?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: There's an old saying that politics, it ain't bean bag. And, you know, I'm not serving in office because I desperately needed 99 new friends in the U.S. Senate and you know what? There's is an inverse relationship. Given the choice between being reviled in Washington D.C. and appreciated in Texas or reviled in Texas and appreciated in Washington, I would take the former 100 out of 100 times.

CORNISH: And to correct an error there, I said House floor, although given all of his traffic over to the House side that would not be an embarrassing slip. David, let me start with you. What does this mean for Republicans on the hill? I mean, is - going forward, can we cut down on the fratricide?

BROOKS: Well, if Cruz wanted to be reviled in Washington, mission accomplished. I was in the Senate dining room the other morning having breakfast with somebody and he walked into the room and the temperature dropped about 50 degrees. I had like an omelet sorbet sitting there. So he is disliked and mostly because of incompetence, not for ideology. He led people in the wrong direction.

I think the big story here is that the Republicans really have begun to shift. If - someone said recently that the worst were full of furious intensity and the best lacked all conviction. The best, meaning, I would say, the Republican reality caucus have a little furious intensity to speak back at the Tea Party and so the establishment has got a little muscle for the first time in a little while, or at least some resolve.

And frankly, if I were the president, I would go right into immigration reform. If the moderate Republicans or the realistic Republicans are in charge, then they get a big substantive win. We actually get this immigration reform done. If the Tea Party is still in charge, then the president gets a big political win because the Republicans will vote it down.

CORNISH: Let's talk about this more. And E.J., before I let you jump in here, let's hear President Obama because he spoke after the shutdown, essentially trying to hit the reset button.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let's work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse. That's not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government.

CORNISH: So we heard a lot of finger-wagging, but essentially do you see any part of President Obama's agenda going forward actually going forward?

DIONNE: I think he is in much better shape today than he was two months ago. I mean, let's start by looking at how wasteful and unnecessary this was. Standard & Poor's estimated that the shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy, and it was an absolutely unnecessary act. Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a very powerful speech where she said we threw away $24 billion on a political stunt. And I think that's important because I think that's how the country saw it.

And what you saw there from President Obama was a really robust defense of the role of government, and I think it was striking while down this shutdown that even the Tea Party folks tried to say well actually we don't hate government. They introduced all these little bills to fund pieces of the government. I think you're going to see a much more robust defense of the role of government against the Tea Party sort of anti-government bromides. And I think the president does have a shot at immigration reform because it actually would help the Republicans if they saw it that way, and I don't think we will ever have an episode like this again because this blew up in the Republicans' faces.

CORNISH: Oh, OK, well, that's good to hear because we're going to have many deadlines going forward, right, and the latest one is going to be this GOP House and Democratic-led Senate, their budget committees meeting to have some negotiations about making a deal going forward.

Now I have to admit I saw all the same players here as we've seen in the past for the so-called supercommittee or these other, you know, fiscal deals that pretty much went nowhere. So either one of you want to jump in and explain why you're optimistic?

BROOKS: Well, I'm sort of optimistic. I don't think we'll have any government shutdowns, none of the same old mistakes we made, they'll invent new ones. And so I guess I would say we're headed for a deal, a minor deal, it's not going to be a big budget deal, but I think it'll involve some minor entitlement reform for the Republicans, what they call buying back the sequester for the Democrats, which creates more domestic discretionary spending. And they're probably closing some corporate loopholes. It won't be a historic budget deal, but I'd be very optimistic that we will not see anything like this. We will have a budget deal later in the year.

DIONNE: I feel much the same way. I think that the whole idea of having a grand bargain, that's out the window. One important thing that did happen here is this deal is not being negotiated by some outside committee. This is the regular process of Congress. The House passed one budget; the Senate passed another. They're going to try to harmonize these as best they can. And I think the best thing for the country would not be to go for something huge but just let's go to normal. Normal looks awfully good right now compared to the alternative.

CORNISH: And one name I want to bring up in just the last minute, Senator Mitch McConnell coming in and helping create the deal. Sort of what's your take on where he is, obviously in the middle of a tough election but finally having to step in and take a stand here?

DIONNE: He had a devastating interview, I thought, about the House to Robert Costa of the National Review, where he basically said we were stuck right near the goal line, and I had to find a way to punt. And I think it was a very smart thing that he did, and I think he'll survive his Tea Party primary.

BROOKS: I mean, same thing. If this government shutdown hadn't happened, we'd be talking about how badly the Obamacare rollout is going and the website, and the Republicans walked all over that storyline, which was their best way to defeat Obamacare, and they ruined that.

CORNISH: Well, David Brooks of The New York Times, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution, thank you so much.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

BROOKS: Thank you.



This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.