The St. Louis Tea Party queen bee, Dana Loesch, was on yet again on CNN, and go ahead and add HLN's The Joy Behar Show to that list of shows that she's spewing lies on.
Dana on the 11.18.2010 edition of AC360:
ROBERTS: Ouch. The American people are the losers.
Joining me now, political analysts David Gergen and Roland Martin along with Tea Party organizer, Dana Loesch, she's also editor of BigJournalism.com and a radio host at KT -- KFTK, 97.1 FM.
Folks thanks so much for being with us.
David, let's start off with you, is it really such a big deal, this idea of cutting the earmarks, particularly when you look at how small a percentage of the total budget they really represent and the fact that this money's probably not going to get saved, that it'll just get spent elsewhere.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, John this is a small amount of money, $15 billion is less than one percent of the budget but it's a big deal, because the -- the money has been used essentially as a piggy bank by a lot of members. They go off and do their favorite project back in their home district or their home states and then they seek voter credit for doing that. And you know and -- and they get into the habit of loose spending; undisciplined spending.
I think it's very wise in time, particularly in these -- when -- when we're so tight on the budget, to cut this stuff out. Yes, there are going to be some good things lost in the process but we've got to get back to essentials. And listen, if they don't need the $15 billion, cut it out of the budget. We've got to start somewhere.
ROBERTS: Dana, how much of this do you think is about members who truly believe that earmarks are a bad idea and how much is about members who simply want to get on a bandwagon?
DANA LOESCH, EDITOR, BIGJOURNALISM.COM: I think that any -- this whole -- this whole debate has really fascinated me simply because I think that those who are arguing in favor of earmarks I think it's sort of a smoke and mirrors situation. Because what they're essentially arguing for, John is -- is the opaque process that has been going on in Washington, D.C., for so unbelievably long. Earmarks as they're being argued for right now, they're talking about tacking on spending requests, un-vetted spending requests on to appropriations bill that bypass the -- the traditional typical two- committee approval process that earmarks are supposed to go through.
And so I think that these people who are -- who -- these Congressmen who are advocating for this, they're -- they're trying to shore up their political capital. This is how they trade powers, through this process.
ROBERTS: Roland Martin, Mitch McConnell in -- in supporting the ban on earmarks said, look, I don't really believe in this, because, three weeks ago he was against it, but gave to Tea Party pressure. But he said I'm worried about just giving more budgetary discretion to the White House and putting it in the hands of the president. Is -- is he right to be concerned about that?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANALYST: No, that's utter nonsense. I mean, look and first of all, I disagree when we categorize this as, well, it's just less than one percent, because if you ask anybody when it comes to their own personal budget, when you need to make cuts, every little bit helps.
But it is clear that senator -- Senator McConnell and Republicans want to, to the American people, to try to make it all about Obama, he's going to somehow spend the money when you have Republicans and Democrats who want to spend, spend, spend. But in your opening, John, you're absolutely right. Where are they going to cut? Are they willing to touch defense?
You see right now Senator John McCain in a constant battle with fellow Republican, Senator Tom Coburn, when it comes to defense spending, when it comes to Rand Paul. That's going to be the real test of the political will. Will they touch Medicare, Social Security, and defense? That's where most of our budget comes from.
ROBERTS: Did --
LOESCH: Well -- can I -- can I add something to Roland's point too?
ROBERTS: Go ahead Dana.
LOESCH: The argument that -- that came from Mitch McConnell who -- until very recently was against earmarks, the idea that somehow they are ceding power to the president, that they are letting go of the purse strings is a lie. Because when you write appropriations bills, unless they write it specifically to say that it is up to discretion of President Obama to decide how this money is spent, he doesn't get to decide. That is Congress's responsibility.
LOESCH: They're playing upon the ignorance of the American people and that's not going to fly anymore.
ROBERTS: David, there's a -- there's another point that some people make, and -- and that perhaps in supporting the ban on earmarks it will obscure that really tough choices that lawmakers will have to make if they want to really take a whack at the -- at the deficit and the overall debt. They can say, hey, look, we took action on earmarks. How much more do you want us to do?
GERGEN: I -- I think it'll go the other way, John. And I think this will help create momentum for more spending cuts. And one of the reasons if you couldn't do a deal with earmarks how in the world are you going to deal with -- as Roland says and I think he's right -- the really tough issues like Medicare and Medicare -- Medicaid and defense.
Listen, this money is basically incumbent protection money. It's -- it's -- it's you know, it's to help them back home. And sometimes it goes for good causes but it's often to increase the popularity of -- of the incumbent. We all know that. And they've got to start somewhere. And I -- you know, I think the argument is a phony one about it's going to give all this stuff to Obama. If they get this one percent, ok, let's go for the three percent --
GERGEN: -- let's go for the next five percent and --
MARTIN: John --
GERGEN: -- they've got to go -- I think Roland's right they've to go after Medicare, Social Security, and defense and put those on the table and let's thresh it out in a serious national debate.
MARTIN: Here -- real quick John --
MARTIN: -- here's the next battle and you're going to see it. When it comes to Medicare, Social Security and defense, you're going to hear members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans say, oh, this will cause us to lose jobs. Losing jobs is always Congress's way of preventing any kinds of cuts from being made. Watch that language. You will hear it from both sides.
LOESCH: Well --
ROBERTS: And there's one other point I'd -- I'd like to get Dana to ring in on here and that is Michele Bachmann is hedging her bets a little bit, she's saying well, maybe what we need to do is we need to redefine what an earmark is. For example, transportation projects, perhaps they shouldn't be considered to be earmarks. Which I guess if you looked at it in the purest sense would mean that because it was a transportation project, that bridge to nowhere was an earmark. Does she have a fair point?
LOESCH: Yes and no. I -- I think that there's a million things that we need to do. First of all, let's -- let's have things go through the authorization and appropriation committees as they're supposed to do in order to be vetted. Let's bring a competitive grant process in, and let's vet these earmarks before we just tack them on.
The point that I think that she is making is that the way that the earmark process stands right now is that we have a lot of pork going towards things like bike paths, yay, bicycles are fantastic but we have bridges across the country that are falling into disrepair. And so a lot of the super important stuff that needs attention is getting overlooked.
And a quick thing about defense, if we want to spend defense money wisely, we can start by reflecting upon the appropriations bill from 2009 that was loaded with earmarks that our president did approve.
ROBERTS: All right we want to take a pause here because we've got a lot more to talk about tonight, so Roland Martin, Dana Loesch and David Gergen, please stay with us.
And we want to know what you think as well. Join the live chat going underway right now at AC360.com.
Coming up next, more from our panel, we're going to get their take on Congressman Charlie Rangel's possible punishment for breaking House ethics rules. Does the punishment fit? And see how it compares to other members of Congress who've gotten in trouble in the past.
Plus our special series, "Amazing Animals, Smarter than you Think," inside the science of how dogs think.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to look at cute pet tricks. What we want to know is what does the dog understand about its world?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: On to "Raw Politics" tonight: a House ethics panel is recommending censure, what amounts to a public scolding, for New York Democratic Congressman, Charlie Rangel. That's after the committee found Rangel guilty on 11 counts, including failing to pay taxes for 17 years on a rental home in the Dominican Republic, misuse of a rent- controlled apartment in the Bronx for political purposes and improper use of government letterhead and government mail.
The 20-year Congressman pleaded for mercy today before learning his potential punishment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: There's no excuse for my behavior, and there was no intent for me ever to go beyond what has been given to me as a salary. I never attempted to enrich myself, and that I walk away no matter what your decision, I'm grateful that I had this opportunity to serve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: 20-term Congressman we should say. 40 years in Congress. You might recall on Monday Rangel walked out of his ethics trial when the committee rejected his request to delay the case so he could hire a new defense team. His original team member left him in September. This whole case has been full of drama.
Tonight a lot of people are questioning whether the suggested punishment fits. We want to show you how it stacks up against other politicians who are found guilty of House violations.
Only 22 House members have ever been censured, the last two were in July of 1983. Republican Congressman, Daniel Crane of Illinois who broke down crying, he was found guilty of sexual misconduct with a female House page years earlier. Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts was found guilty of sexual misconduct with a male page years earlier.
Another type of punishment is a reprimand only eight House members have faced that, most recently Georgia Republican, Newt Gingrich in 1997 when he was Speaker of the House. He was slapped with an unprecedented $300,000 fine for allowing a member affiliate tax exempt organization to be used for political purposes. He also gave false information to the committee investigating the charges.
Now, the harshest punishment is expulsion, just five House members have been forced out of office. The most recent you may recall is Ohio Democrat James Traficant. He was kicked out of the House in 2002 after he was found guilty in a federal corruption trial of conspiracy to commit bribery and of racketeering among other things. Traficant had quite a message for the ethics committee back then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES TRAFICANT (D), OHIO: And I want to say to this committee, I love America but I hate the government. I love the elected members. I've met many of you and love you all and I mean that. That's not patronizing to get your vote. I don't expect your vote.
But we have an aristocracy in the judiciary that is afraid of the FBI and the IRS. They're scared to death of them. And they trampled all over my rights and I'll be damned if they're going to do it to me.
So I will take an upward departure and I will die in jail, because I did not commit these crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: Of course he didn't die in jail. He's out.
Now for more perspective, you might be wondering what happened to Congressman Joe Wilson. He made headlines for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The reforms -- the reforms I am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie!
OBAMA: It's not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: That was Wilson in September 2009 when President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on health care reform. The South Carolina Republican dodged serious punishment. House members issued a resolution expressing disapproval of Wilson's actions.
So did Rangel get the right punishment?
Back now to our political panel: David Gergen, Roland Martin and Dana Loesch.
So David, start us off here, was 9-1 in favor of censure in the committee, first time as we said since 1983. Is it the right punishment?
GERGEN: I thought it was, John, because censure is usually for people who've done unethical things. Expulsion, the highest punishment is -- is actually for people who have been found to do unlawful things. And there's been no finding so far that Congressman Rangel has done unlawful things.
And a censure is a pretty powerful tool. It -- we've reviewed the House history, you remember one of the most famous incidences in the Senate was the censure of Senator Joe McCarthy, and it broke him. It broke his power. And -- and I dare say in this case that Charlie Rangel has basically seen his best days.
ROBERTS: Dana, you -- you disagree with David, you just think that he should be expelled from the House. You're in favor of expulsion.
ROBERTS: What did he do to rise to that level?
LOESCH: I think that the level of hypocrisy with Charlie Rangel is one of legendary proportions. And I -- I don't think that it -- I -- I don't think that comparing it to Joe Wilson, the censure and that -- and that situation, it's -- it's -- it's unbelievably different. I mean, this is a guy who is -- who was on the committee that helped write our tax code that that didn't go by the law himself but yet he would write it for other people.
This is a guy who, I mean, if they -- if they decide to investigate further and they think that there is -- it warrants criminal penalties or -- or what have you, then I just think that censure seems to be a super light way to go, considering all of the charges that were against him.
ROBERTS: Roland --
MARTIN: You know John -- I -- I think first of all that analysis is absolutely nonsense. Ok? It is nonsense. He -- he -- first of all, the lead attorney on this committee stated there was a corruption. The lead attorney on this committee said he did not believe there was personal benefit. I do believe that first of all he should have followed the rules.
MARTIN: I do believe there should be some penalty. But to sit here and suggest remove him from Congress when you just read a list of individuals who committed sexual acts with a House page and received censure and then you saw what Newt Gingrich did as Speaker of the House, utilizing a committee for political purposes and he doesn't get --
LOESCH: What, Charlie Rangel?
MARTIN: No, no, no, excuse me.
LOESCH: No, no, no.
MARTIN: Excuse me, excuse me. I didn't interrupt you.
MARTIN: You did not have censure in that case.
And so when you judge it based upon the history of the House, I believe it is ridiculous to say expulsion. I do not believe it has risen to the level of censure. I think the same level of rebuke that Gingrich got Rangel should get as well.
ROBERTS: Charlie Rangel stood before the committee and he basically begged for mercy. He said I'm 80 years old, I don't know how much longer I'm going to live. And -- and then he said this, let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANGEL: And I recognized that you cannot deal with issues that's not before this committee. Or what the press has done to me and my community and my family is just totally unfair. Counsel knows it. All of you know it. And it's not your responsibility to correct them. But they will continue to call me a crook and charge me being corrupt. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: David, blaming the press, it's a tried and true tradition. But is it -- is it applicable in this case?
GERGEN: Well, I -- the -- the press actually did uncover some of this. Now, let's be -- let's be clear about this. We didn't know about this housing business and 17 years of unpaid taxes, had the press not gotten into it. That's the role of the press, is to play the watchdog. I don't think he was done in by the press.
Charlie -- he can make that argument and it's fine, but I don't think that's the real issue. The real issue is he had these violations and there's no -- there's no evidence to controvert it.
GERGEN: I mean, and it is -- it's a clear-cut case. It's a series of violations. I think they did the right thing.
ROBERTS: And we'll see where it all goes from here.
David Gergen, Roland Martin, Dana Loesch, thanks very much for being with us. I really appreciate it.
MARTIN: Thanks a lot.
LOESCH: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Still ahead, could there finally be a break in the case of Natalee Holloway? The Alabama teenager disappeared in Aruba five years ago. Forensic tests now being conducted could provide some much-needed answers. We'll explain just ahead.
Plus, why Tiger Woods says he is infinitely happier now than before the sex scandal that destroyed his marriage and tarnished his image one year ago.
Dana on the 11.17.2010 edition of The Joy Behar Show: