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After Party: Where Do We Go from Here?

Aired November 29, 2008 - 18:00   ET


DONNA BRAZILE: The president-elect presents his economic team, but will he take power too late to rescue the United States economy?
DAVID BRODY: Hello, I'm David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network and this is THE AFTER PARTY, where CNN political contributor Donna Brazile and I will be discussing all this week's top political topics.

BRAZILE: I'll be leading the discussion with a group of progressives while David's conservative panel watches from the sideline.

BRODY: And then the conservatives are going to come out from the wilderness for their turn.

BRAZILE: That's right, they're in the wilderness. But let's get started right now.

Let's start by going around the table to get a quick answer from each of you. Jennifer Palmieri with the Center for American Progress, how bad is the economic situation? What's your honest assessment?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, SENIOR VP FOR COMMUNICATIONS AT THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think that it's historically bad, but it can be clarifying to, in terms of what Obama's agenda should be and could also sort of help coalesce the country behind him to support him (INAUDIBLE).

BRAZILE: Peter Barnhart with the Council on Foreign Relations. You heard the - about the grim news this week, war, economic hardship, unemployment on the rise. What is your assessment?

PETER BEINHART, EDITOR-AT-LARGE FOR THE NEW REPUBLIC: Most people in the United States I think have never seen anything like what we have coming. And it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

But I think we're thinking -- I think realistically you have to think that if the economy's going to turn around, it's not going to be next year. It will be 2010 or even 2011.

BRAZILE: And Niko Pitney with "The Huffington Post", what's your take on all of this?

NIKO PITNEY, NATIONAL EDITOR AT THE HUFFINGTON POST: I talked to a senior economist the other day who said he lies awake at night, you know, cannot figure out how this resolves itself in, you know, the near term at all. Peter's right. 9% unemployment next year maybe. It's still got a long way to go before we hit bottom. So that's frightening.

BRAZILE: This past week, we saw President-elect Obama hold three press conferences. The first, of course, he announced his economic team. What do you think about this all-star lineup? Peter?

BEINART: I think it's impressive. These are people who have been tested, who have been in these kind of positions before, which I think is good. Because you don't have a lot of time for on the job training, but their thinking has always evolved. Lawrence Summers does not believe all the same things exactly he believed in the 1990s. They've been watching the changes in the economy. And I think that they're going to respond with some of the wisdom that we had from the 1990s, but also respond to the very new circumstances that we're in today.

BRAZILE: Is this a mix of old and new or just old and tried and true? What is it, Niko?

PITNEY: I think it is a mix of old and new. You know, you have Volcker now taking over an outside economic counsel, which obviously provides, you know, hopefully will provide a great deal of insight. But Geithner is 47 years old. He's got some hopefully fresh thinking, some energetic thinking. But obviously the experience, too. He's been right in the thick of the initial bailouts and has experience from that.

BRAZILE: Jennifer, you know one of the top picks personally, Melanie Barnes. Can you tell us a little bit about her? I know we know her background, working for the Center for American Progress, but you know a little bit more about her.

PALMIERI: Yes, I mean, she's a good friend of both of ours. And we're really pleased for her. And I said earlier this week that the integrity quotient of any room goes up immediately when Melody Barnes walks through the door.

And she is somebody who is, you know, an extraordinarily talented lawyer, but cares very deeply about policy. Her faith is very important to her. And we're - and I think that she can bring -- she sort of represents the best in public service in that way. And she's a very generous and gracious colleague, but she's a pretty tough force to be reckoned with. So -- Niko worked with Melody as well, so I think that's why he's chuckling about "force to be reckoned with."

BRAZILE: Why are you chuckling?

PITNEY: Don' t think less. I mean, she can hit hard, but she's a wonderful, incredibly kind person.

BRAZILE: But what will be on her plate, Peter? Domestic policy counsel? I mean, is this the leader who will help President Obama come up with a plan for universal health care, education reform? What's under her portfolio?

BEINART: Well, I think there are a number of things. First, obviously, the stimulus is number one. The question is can you use the stimulus to move towards some of the environmental goals they want? Can you kind of connect that to the green agenda?

But the stimulus alone won't do that. You also have to think about a cap in trade or a carbon tax, or something to try to start to price carbon, which I think most economists believe is going to be necessary if we're going to deal with global warming.

And then you have health care, which Obama seems to be very serious about, which is going to cost money in the short term. It may pay for itself over time. But in the short term, it's going to cost money, but I think it's absolutely essential to try to fix this health care system, which is the cause of so much economic distress for so many Americans.

BRAZILE: There's a big debate, Jennifer, right now, in terms of the stimulus package. How big, how large, how soon? What's your thinking on the stimulus package?

PALMIERI: Well, I think that - I mean, it does seem that it could be as large - you know, even people who are close to Obama are speaking in terms of a $700 billion package. But I think that what is sort of significant about how they seem to be approaching this is that they're not putting off other priorities. They're not saying, we're going to do the economic recovery. And we have to leave health care for another time. And I think that's part of -- you'll see Larry Summers and Tim Geithner taking the lead on economic recovery. But Melody will be taking the lead at the White House anyway on health care reform. And that they plan to continue to move these things on parallel tracks, which is why I think people who suggest if you have Clinton people coming in, that this somehow suggests that he's become -- that Obama's becoming centrist. I don't think how you can be for a $700 million recovery package and universal health care and be considered to be a newly centrist president. But the bill tried to do - move a lot of things at once.

BRAZILE: You know, conservatives already worried. And we'll hear from them in a minute, of course, about this stimulus package. And Niko, this week, we heard that the government, once again, bailed out Citigroup. Another $20 billion, I guess, in new capital to get them loaning money again. And at $306 billion, I guess, guarantee to help them with all of their so-called bad assets. I mean, bailing out, once again, a Wall Street firm, but not Main Street. So what's your thinking about all of this excessive government spending?

PITNEY: Yes, I mean, I think the -- I think the stimulus clearly -- opposition to it will decrease, given the repeated bailouts of Wall Street firms. I think you have to have a Main Street component to it. This Citigroup bailout really, really makes some of the prognosticators from just a month ago who claimed, you know, AIG was it, we're in the clear, the $700 billion bailout would settle it, and then four weeks later.

And it really shows how precarious we are in this lame duck period. You know, we've come a magnitude of order in terms of this economic crisis in, you know, four or five weeks. And we still have several more weeks to go before President-elect Obama takes office. And who knows what happens in that period? It's actually very dangerous for our economy right now.

BRAZILE: Peter, President-elect Obama announced a new head of the Office of Management and Budget. He's someone, again, that we know here inside the beltway. And he also gave him a choice, go through the federal budget line by line, page by page. I mean, should he bring a scalpel, a knife? Exactly what instrument? Just a magnifying glass?

BEINART: We face a short-term crisis and a long-term crisis. In the long term, as Obama rightly said, in the long term, the structural deficit is a big problem. Remember the baby boomers retiring? I mean, that used to be our big problem. Remember when we only had that as a problem?

Over the long term, the massive debt America is going to rack up, which will basically relying on China to fund, they may not decide they always want to continue that, is a huge problem.

But right now, it has to take second place to the enormous short-term crisis. Because if we go deep into Depression, we're going to dramatically lose revenue anyway. So I think what Obama is trying to do is trying to jolt the economy with a massive stimulus in the short term. But over the long term, trying to lay the foundation for getting back to fiscal sanity. It's very, very difficult one-two punch.

BRAZILE: Well, let me ask you this question. Tom Friedman, a wonderful columnist, noted earlier this week on CNN that we perhaps should move the inauguration up. Let me show that.


TOM FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think we should seriously consider moving up the inauguration date. There is a storm coming, okay, and it hasn't hit yet. And I believe the decisions made, possibly in these next two months, could determine the next four years. This administration could be over before it starts.


BRAZILE: Well, is that wise, Jennifer? Should we move it up? I know legally we cannot, but...

PALMIERI: Yes, it is a - it's a -- you know, my boss John Pless (ph) is one of the co-chairs of the transition. And I know that they walked into this transition pretty well organized, probably more so than any other transition. But the - and you know, perhaps they may be -- you know, think theoretically they could maybe take over in the middle of December. But to force a government to form and deal with all these problems in that short of a time frame is difficult. I don't know that you can really responsibly move it up any sooner.

BRAZILE: What about you, Niko? You think Obama's ready to come to Washington, D.C. in December?

PITNEY: I think he knows that there's one president at a time, but is trying to find that appropriate line, you know, we just saw him give three press conferences in three days. He's trying to take a -- you know, let people know the direction he'll take the country in. And it's actually having an effect on the markets at least. You see a positive jump there.

But I agree with Peter. On issues like health care, he's already making steps. There's a - you know, he's continuing on with the Internet technology he used in the campaign now. He's set up a forum on his transition site, where people can comment about the direction of health care policy. Starting on those initiatives is another way to you know, get ahead of this.

BRAZILE: Everyone, stay right here. It looks like Barack Obama foreign policy team will take center stage next week. And the president-elect appointments might make some progressives, hmm, a little antsy. We'll hear from our panel and get their opinion when you join us back at the AFTER PARTY.


BRAZILE: I'm Donna Brazile here at the AFTER PARTY. David Brody and the conservatives will get their turn in a few moments.

But right now, I'm going to keep talking to my progressive friends on this week's politics. Let's talk about President-elect Obama's, you know, announcement next week, perhaps announcement, that he will, of course, put together his -- announce his national security team. So we're hearing names, major, of course, Major General James Jones. We've heard Hillary Clinton. We've heard Jim Steinberg. Peter, perhaps there are other people. What do you think about some of these potential nominees?

BEINART: They're all very experienced, which I think is very important given than it's not usual that a president starts -- takes office in the middle of two wars. And also, because Obama is going to be so overwhelmingly having to focus on this economic stuff that he really needs people who have a lot of experience. And I think that's, you know, a lot of these people are older. They're in their 60s. They've served in very, very high-level positions. And I think that's going to serve them well.

BRAZILE: Hillary Clinton, is she ready?

PALMIERI: ...lively meetings in the situation room -- pretty strong personalities there.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

PALMIERI: And General Jones will have quite a time keeping, you know, sort of mediating the battles between them all. But it is. I mean, as Peter say, an incredibly experienced team. I think it's a brilliant move to bring Senator Clinton into that particular position.

BRAZILE: But Niko, I didn't mention Robert Gates, because there's also a rumor floating that Robert Gates may stay on as Secretary of Defense. I mean, what do you think? I mean, progressives are clearly going to not enjoy their Thanksgiving meal.

PITNEY: Surprisingly, Robert Gates hasn't spurred too much of an, you know, outrage or protest among progressives. And it seems as if people believe that -- you know, that the sense that he has run the Pentagon competently and without a deep ideology. And that he'll work with Obama, you know, very well on the goals that he set out.

I think the major challenge for him is -- I mean in addition, obviously, to Iraq, is figuring out what the exit strategy is in Afghanistan. That has remained undefined. And you know, they're going to have to trudge new ground there to figure out the problem.

BRAZILE: But Peter, you wrote in "TIME" magazine, of course, that Obama chose people who can guard his right flank at home. What were you talking about? I mean, what's that about?

BEINART: Well, I think it is very likely that Obama is going to step up the withdrawals from Iraq as he said. I think there's also every reason to believe that he's going to make a real diplomatic push with Iran, maybe leading to some kind of deal with Iran. Those things are going to be very controversial. There's the potential for him to be attacked a lot on those things. And I think that people like Gates and General Jones, and Hillary Clinton as well, are going to be very good spokesmen for those policies as well. I think they'll be the right policies. I think they'll also be controversial policies. And I think he shrewdly looked for people who can be good salesmen for his foreign policy, not only abroad, but at home as well.

BEINART: General Jones participated in McCain campaign events, I mean...

PITNEY: He worked for McCain. He...

BRAZILE: Well, let's get it all out. And of course, Robert Gates oversaw the surge strategy. Jennifer, are you worried that all of these so-called -- despite, you know, these people who are involved in the current administration, the current war strategy, will be taking over in the Obama administration?

PALMIERI: Well, I think I have faith that President-elect Obama, as he has said about -- he hasn't really spoken about Secretary Gates, but about, you know, people from the Clinton administration coming in, that this is his administration and that he's been very clear about, you know, where he thinks we need to go in Iraq and apparently is comfortable that Secretary Gates who, you know who's not Don Rumsfeld, I think, we need to remind people and that, was not part of - you know, was not an architect of the war. But I think is, you know, a general sort of assessments, has managed as best as you can at this point.

And given, as Peter pointed out, a lot of the domestic concerns, it seems that it's a wise thing to do. And as Niko said, I'm sort of surprised, but it hasn't really raised a lot of rancor with our friends that may even be to left of us.

BRAZILE: But I heard there, there is some concern that we're seeing too many - and this is not my opinion, of course.

PALMIERI: This is not your opinion.

BRAZILE: Of course, I'm also, you know, a graduate of the Clinton/Gore, you know, school of politics.


BRAZILE: But we're hearing that perhaps some of our friends on the left, progressives, are worried that there's too many Clintonites in this new administration, at least some of the names that we've heard. What do you think about that?

BEINART: The Clinton administration was an extremely successful presidency. He did -- I think it was a successful presidency. And in fact, if you look at why Republicans have been successful in recent administrations in hitting the ground running, in getting their agendas passed in the first year, Reagan was successful at that, Bush, it's because they were able - they brought in a lot of people from past administrations who knew how to get things done.

It's Democrats under Carter and Bill Clinton, who in their first year, really struggled I think because they didn't have that institutional wisdom. Democrats should be glad that they have this very strong bench of people who I think can move quickly from the beginning. And, you know, I would just argue with people who think the Clinton administration was a disaster. It was not a disaster. It was a very successful administration.

BRAZILE: Well, I agree. I plead guilty. I agree. But look, what happened to change? President-elect Obama ran on change.

PITNEY: I think two things. One is he cannot be more clear and David Axelrod has said this also, he is not hiring people to provide him a vision. He has a vision. He wants them to effectuate it.

The second part is the most important work going on right now to make sure that there is a significant change is happening completely outside of public view. It's this agency review process, where people are finding - you know, there are reports that Bush is burrowing career officials into these agencies. The agency review process is, you know, determining where the weak points are, where the...

BRAZILE: He's worried about rising unemployment among his own.

PALMIERI: ...add two other things about this. One is that I think people forget that with Clinton it had been 12 years...


PALMIERI: ...since there had been a Democratic administration. And that Democratic administration had only been in power for four years, and was sandwiched in between the Nixon and Reagan administrations. So it's not as if there was a lot of Democratic talent around that had had a lot of previous administration experience with Clinton. And it's a very different thing. It has only been eight years. And you're coming off of an eight year Democratic administration.

And the other thing is that I know the media, our friends in the media like, to make a big fuss about the...


PALMIERI: I know you're not one of them. You're my friend, but you're not really the media. That they - that they're making a fuss about the Clinton appointees. But even the -- you know if you really look at what progressives, particular in the blogosphere are saying, they're not necessarily saying this is a problem. They're saying we want to keep an eye on this. We want to see -- you know what Obama's saying, the policy is good, but we want to make sure, you know, this is something to watch. It may be a problem.

BRAZILE: One last question. On Tuesday, of course, there's a big election in Georgia. Saxby Chambliss, the incumbent, is facing Jim Martin in a runoff election. Who will win that race?

PALMIERI: Let's see....

BRAZILE: All right, I just had to...

PALMIERI: He's a really talented candidate.

BRAZILE: Surprise turnout.


BRAZILE: Surprise turnout. Sarah Palin is going next week, but I think she will fire up liberals.

PITNEY: Interesting. The early indications don't suggest a high turnout, which is troublesome, but it's very close. You never know.

BRAZILE: All right. Well, look, that's all we have for this week. David and his gang are up next. And we'll be watching them on the AFTER PARTY. Come on, David, come on out of wilderness.

BRODY: Yes, we're here, we're here.

BRAZILE: Come on, come on, come on.

BRODY: Yes, we were in a soundproof booth.

BRAZILE: Bring us some apples, bring us something.

PALMIERI: Request for some bailout money.

BRAZILE: You all look (INAUDIBLE).


BRODY: I'm David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. We're at the AFTER PARTY. Now you've heard from the progressives. Let's get the conservative view now. Begin with the same question that was asked of progressives. CNN contributor Amy Holmes, how bad is the situation economically facing Barack Obama going in?

AMY HOLMES: In a word, dire. This is the biggest economic crisis that we -- our generation has ever seen. And it's going to be a huge challenge for Barack Obama. You heard the earlier panel say he'll be able to enact all of his new programs. Not with these bailouts that just keep coming.

BRODY: Tara Wall, "Washington Times."

TARA WALL: It is a very serious situation when you're talking about job cuts, job losses, layoffs, consumer spending down. I but I wouldn't say that it's dire. I think that it's serious, not dire. We don't want to cause mass hysteria.

BRODY: John Feehery, Republican strategist. Dire?

JOHN FEEHERY, PRESIDENT OF THE FEEHERY GROUP: It depends. It depends how the government reacts. If it overreacts and does things, try to repeal the laws of supply and demand , it could get really, really bad. If they are reasonable and have the right policy prescriptions, we can get them through this fairly easily.

BRODY: Let me get to the trifecta of Obama press conferences this week. I mean, my goodness, it was like -- he was like Sarah Palin this week. You know, we saw him every single day. But it was interesting where he talked about the economic recovery plan. Let me play a quick clip from that.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: It is my hope that the new Congress will begin work on an aggressive economic recovery plan, when they convene in early January, so that our administration can hit the ground running. With our economy in distress, we cannot hesitate and we cannot delay.


BRODY: All right. So a quick reality check. I mean, this is a no brainer. This thing's going to pass in January. He's talking about it like it's going to happen. It's going on behind the scenes now, Amy?

HOLMES: It's going to fly through. But the real question is, if you give Americans a check from the federal government, will they spend it? When we are talking about unemployment going up, we're talking about a credit crisis, are they really going to go to Target or Wal- mart or Home Depot and actually spend this money?

WALL: They didn't spend the money the last time. I mean, I think they all put it in their bank accounts, quite frankly, that they're now taking out of their bank accounts and stuffing under their mattresses. I think it's admirable that he's being aggressive, taking his head on, appearing to be very presidential. I think it could be overkill if he does a little bit too much of this. I mean, three in three days is quite enough quite frankly. But I do believe, yes, you do have to exude an air of confidence within the stock markets, with consumers and Americans. They want to be able to at least feel like things are going to be okay throughout the transition. We'll see what happens after that. But at least through this transitional period, I think everybody knows we have to, you know, buckle down. And it's going to be tight times for a little while. So...

BRODY: Yes, John, you know, speaking of this one president at a time, you know, it just does seem like there's a perception issue for the Obama campaign. They need to understand that it is about the economy and they need to project that. And really, they've got to capitalize from a perception standpoint right away.

FEEHERY: Well, he's doing that. The interesting thing is, his appointments all say continuity.

WALL: Right.

FEEHERY: Pretty much Tim Geithner from Treasury, pretty much the same characters, where the same philosophies are running this thing. Also...

WALL: So much for change.

FEEHERY: So much for change. But there's also -- the interesting thing about all these press conferences, beyond the people, the characters, he hasn't really introduced any new ideas...

WALL: Yes.

FEEHERY: ...or hasn't really said anything. From a policy perspective, he's been very clever. This is where you get the one president at a time thing. He's appearing presidential, but he's not doing anything presidential, other than saying who's going to be running his campaign.

BRODY: Were you going to say something?

HOLMES: I was going to say Barack Obama's very good at PR. And one of the things that he said about becoming president is that he wanted to project an air of confidence. But we saw with the very first bailout, he said that we should support it. He didn't call a single House Democrat to actually vote for it and put their neck on the line. So he knows what you have to say publicly, but he also knows what you have to do politically.

BRODY: You know, this Geithner and Summers, this, you know, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, it's like, you know, an opening Catskill act for Jerry Lewis or something like that. I mean, it just seems to me that Obama's trying to play the centrist role, you know, that these guys, you know, had some ties, you know, obviously, to Wall Street, but also to Main Street. And I'm just wondering your take on that, Tara?

WALL: Well, other than this being - this -- many of these appointments being a Clinton redo, if you will, Geithner is essentially a protege of Summer's. And I think that there is the continuity question. You do have to address continuity.

But at the same time, I mean, what is - what's being offered that's new and fresh? In fact, Geithner actually -- and Paulson seem to agree about the same kind of, let's experiment with this whole financial situation. And they worked together, but it's all about experimenting with what works. I don't think anyone knows what works at this point, including Obama.


BRODY: The thing is that no one knows what works and doesn't work.

HOLMES: That's right.

FEEHERY: I think what Paulson's done is a bunch of different experiments, some of which have failed. And what - Geithner's going to continue that. No one knows what the depth of this problem is. No one knows how bad it's going to be. And so there is going to be some experimentation. And I think we all can chill out a little bit and see how it works.

BRODY: But there is-yeah?

HOLMES: Shouldn't we be glad though as conservatives that he is using centrist free market people in his administration? You're not getting the Marxist, you know, academics.

WALL: Well, as you heard in the previous panel, you know, there's this concern about, oh, my God, Robert Gates, and there's a Republican. And I mean, my question was where were these Republicans he was talking about, meshing with? And I think that's a good thing. I think it is unprecedented in the way we're seeing this transition being handed over, the cooperation, the collaboration that's taking place from one administration to the next and the bringing in of ideals and making sure that everyone's on the same page.

HOLMES: And George Bush deserves credit for that.

WALL: Absolutely deserves credit. And you have to have that.

FEEHERY: And we also as conservatives and as Republicans need to praise Barack Obama when he makes some right choices...

BRODY: Right.

FEEHERY: ...and gives us greater credibility when he makes the wrong choices later on.

BRODY: Well, let me ask you about this, because you know, we've seen a lot of former Clinton staffers, you know, come into this Obama administration. And you go down the list. I mean, John Podesta, Rahm Emanuel...

HOLMES: Eric Holder. BRODY: Eric Holder, Greg Craig, I mean, you just go down the list. It's kind of like a reunion from "Beverly Hills 90210" or something like that. But...

HOLMES: Why didn't they just nominate Hillary?

BRODY: That's right. But I mean, at the end of the day, I mean, is this something that Obama is going to make his mark, no matter who he puts in his administration? This is about Obama and Axelrod and the folks he's bringing in from Chicago. I mean, at the end of the day, these are the folks that are really going to have the control, right?

WALL: Yes. Well, I think, too, I mean, some -- if you would have brought in a bunch of Chicago folks, people would have complained about oh, my God, he's got all these Chicago people. Nobody knows who they are. They're outsiders. It's going to be - I mean, I think there's a good mix and match of -- I mean, there are only so many I guess good talented Democrats to go around maybe.

So you have to stick with what's tried and true. So too - in some aspects, you go with the experience of people who have been there, who know the lay of the land, and that can help in that regard. And I think you're seeing some of that.

And at the same time, the most trusted people that will be his most senior advisers, the closest people to him, the people that he knows that have grown up with him, who know him well, know how to articulate what he wants to lay out.

BRODY: John?

FEEHERY: For example -- go ahead.

BRODY: Yes, I was going to ask you, is Hillary Clinton and some of these other folks that he's going to put in national securitywise, I mean, is that what we're going to see going forward in terms of his plan, so to speak, for the world's stage?

FEEHERY: You know, it's interesting to note, Peter Beinart said it earlier, is he doing this to cover his right flank so he can begin negotiations with Iran? If he does that, maybe you have the right people doing exactly the wrong thing.

You know, do they want to pull out precipitously out of Iraq and cause us a real national security nightmare and doing it with Bob Gates and Hillary Clinton? If the does that, that could be a nightmare.

Does he want to have the wrong policies to deal with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia? That is the problem. If they're covering his right flank and doing what he wants to do in a way that will endanger our national security, this can be a real big problem.

WALL: I would say that he almost has to keep Robert Gates in there. And this is -- it's not necessarily, oh, he wants to be bipartisan in this sense. I think he has no other choice. It's -- we all know he's a bit of a novice when it comes to national security and foreign policy. So he is keeping those folks who know the lay of the land best. He does work well with Bob Gates. Bob Gates is not a big political big whig if you will...

HOLMES: He's not Don Rumsfeld.

WALL: He is. So he - although he is decisive in many regards, many have said too that he's open and he's flexible to hearing other, you know, suggestions. So I - but I think at the same time, Barack Obama can't just yank him out of there knowing this -- number one, the surge has worked.

HOLMES: Right.

WALL: And he was one of the people that were the impetus of this and pushed this forward.

And number two, you need to have someone who was trusted in the field who has been there to not only guide Barack Obama, give him suggestions, but with the people that he's working with, and the lay of the land, need to be able to know that the person who's in charge from our side...

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE) for the Iraqis.

WALL: That's right, that's my point.

HOLMES: That the Iraqis cannot be thrown into not knowing...

WALL: Exactly.

HOLMES: ...where America's going to go next.

WALL: Exactly.

HOLMES: You know, just on a policy stand and perspective that Bob Gates is a good idea.

WALL: He's well respected all around.

HOLMES: But I think it's worth noting that Barack Obama campaigned on change and hope. And here he is bringing some of the same old faces.

WALL: Right.

HOLMES: Is this, you know, old wine, new bottle? And I think Democrats could certainly be forgiven for looking at this and saying, hmm, you know, you're picking all the people from the Clinton administration?

BRODY: You should know the difference between Barack Obama though and Bill Clinton. When Bill Clinton came into the Pentagon, the Pentagon basically hated him, because he was trying to impose all kinds of social policies that the Pentagon rebelled against. What he's doing right now with Jim Jones and Bob Gates, who are very well respected in the Pentagon, he has advocates for the Pentagon in his administration. And if you're in the Pentagon, you probably appreciate that very much. BRODY: All right, guys, we're going to take a quick break. When we come back, lots more to talk about. Sarah Palin, moose stew, Bobby Jindal, the Republican National Committee chairmanship. My goodness, it's a full plate. And back after the break on the AFTER PARTY.


BRODY: All right, it's the AFTER PARTY. We're discussing this week's top political topics. Tara Wall, the RNC chairmanship, who's it going to be? We've got Michael Steele, Kate Dahlson (ph), Sala Newsis (ph), others potentially. It's an important pick.

WALL: Yes, but first they got to stop all that internal fighting and bickering and finger-pointing and even fables being told, falsehoods about certain, you know, some of the candidates.

It is an important pick. And I think this is a time for the party to determine what it really wants. Some outside of the box thinking. And they need to stop the bickering long enough, first of all, to do that.

And I don't think the party has been able to come together and decide what it wants, what's it seeking in a chairman. And instead, they're just instantly pointing fingers. I think obviously Michael still brings a lot of great national appeal to the chairmanship, which draws in donors and others. But I think that until the party can decide what it wants, and who it wants, and how it wants to lead, it's going to be a struggle going up until the election in January.

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE) They need to pick a good communicator...

WALL: That's right.

HOLMES: A great communicator.

WALL: That's right.

HOLMES: And I think Michael Steele is great at that. I have a little story. When he was campaigning with Bob Ehrlich in Maryland, some Kathleen Kennedy Townsend supporters threw Oreos at him at campaign events. And I had an opportunity to ask him that. Like how did you feel about that happening to you?

Here was his answer. I loved it. He said they don't feed you at those things. So I just scooped them up and I ate them and gave...

WALL: Absolutely.

HOLMES: He's able to boil down issues very well. And we know he has a sense of humor. And he's a great communicator.

WALL: And he's, what's important though is they're attacking him because internally, he's being attacked because he brings this presence. And they feel like he's being presumptuous because he has this national appeal. He has a national platform.

Well, for crying out loud... (CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: The most important thing, it's got to be a communicator, yes, but it's got to be a strategist. It's got to be someone who understands policy. And it's got to be someone who can go to all 50 states and give the Republican message.

Our problem is that we've become a regional party. And we have to understand that we have to have leaders who can go in all 50 states, who can promote not only in states, though, in cities and in suburbs, because we're losing there too, and have a strategy for going after all these different groups.

And you know, the big problem we have right now is our two leaders, our legislative leaders, and we don't have a titular head of the party who can strategize.

WALL: Right.

FEEHERY: We need someone like a Haley Barbour, if it's not Haley Barbour, but a modern version of Haley Barbour, who has that strategic understanding, who has a communications ability which you're right about, but also understands the intersection of policy, politics, and fundraising and all those things that make a really good...

WALL: That's right. And where you have those weaknesses, and when that person has certain weaknesses, they're not strong. Because there's not one person that's strong in all of those things. But in some of those weaknesses, you bring in the people, you bring in the team that have the ability to do it.

Right now, the party, it's functioned well. I believe it's even outraised the DNC even in this cycle, even given the atmosphere of Republicans. So they have some strong structural things in place. Mike Duncan, he's a good organizer. He's been in the party a long time. But you also -- but at this point, it's obvious the party needs a face, a charismatic person to pull it all together and hire the people that can put together the other -- the rest of the nuts and bolts of the party.

BRODY: How important is it to have an African-American in that Republican National Committee chairmanship, in terms of this new face you call it, so to speak?

HOLMES: Well, I think that it would be a great advantage. I don't think that it's necessary.

BRODY: The mainstream media would love that story.

HOLMES: They would. And they'd also, they'd love to see an African- American at the RNC, you know, taking their shots at the African- American in the White House. They would love that drama.

But I think what Republicans need to think about is someone who can bring people into the tent.

WALL: That's right.

HOLMES: What you're talking about...

WALL: And you - and it's not just -- it would be different if -- let's use Michael Steele again as another example because the example we have right now. But it's not just that he's an African-American, but also what he has to bring, what he has to offer. He's been a state party chairman. He's been an elected official. He's run for a nationwide office.

HOLMES: He was lieutenant governor Maryland, which is a blue, blue state.

WALL: So he has all these other components that he brings with him. Not just being black. And he's a strong conservative. He is pro-life despite some of the communications that have been going about that he's not. He is pro-life.

BRODY: They were torpedo him behind the scenes.

WALL: You know, he supports the platform in these regards. So I think if that's not what the party's looking for, the question is then it becomes what is.

FEEHERY: What Steele's problem is that he's not a member of the RNC right now. And so you have to be an elected as...

WALL: But I think they changed that rule.

FEEHERY: I know, but it's still a problem that he's got to overcome. I think Steele would be a good choice. I think there's plenty of good choices, but they have to have that strategic sense and they have to be able to campaign in all 50 states.

BRODY: But let me move real quick, because we just got a few minutes left. Bobby Jindal was in Iowa this week. Hello, I mean, what? We got 33 months until the Iowa caucuses.

HOLMES: Barack Obama, he started running after one year in the Senate.

WALL: That's right.

HOLMES: Got a leg up.

BRODY: But look, let's talk about Bobby Jindal for a moment. Fiscally conservative. He's popular with fiscal conservatives, social consecutives. And he can spell potato if you know what I'm saying. I mean, what is your sense about Jindal? And I mean, come on, shouldn't he put his name in the hat, not that he's going to do it now.

WALL: I really wanted to see him as the VP pick actually. I knew he wouldn't do it because he is running a state and he's got a very important job. But I mean, just dynamic, absolutely.

FEEHERY: What Jindal brings is the smart factor. And we need to be able to appeal to those upper educated smart people who live in the suburbs. And we need to get someone who actually has some real competent policy behind him, who's actually done things.

HOLMES: That's right.

FEEHERY: And Jindal's done some - many amazing things. Even the way he handled the latest hurricane in Louisiana. He is competent, he's smart, he has a track record. And I think he's going to be a future leader of the party.

WALL: And he's been a public servant most of his young life. And he's my age. So most of his young life, he's been a public servant. I mean, he's worked at all levels of government. And he has a track record as a reformer. He's pro-life, he's very conservative, transparent. This is the type of dynamic leader and smart. He has all these abilities.

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE) needs to be looking. They need to be looking at the young people who are succeeding. I have a name for you. Aaron Shock. 29 years old. Just got elected to the House as a Republican in a Democratic year from the state of Illinois, Barack Obama's home state. I got to chat with him this last weekend and ask him, how did you do it? You know, Republicans are in the wilderness as the previous panel kept insisting. How did you win? And he had a message of inclusion. He's pro-life. He's a conservative. He articulates that very well.

WALL: What he -- I think the other thing is that we hadn't brought up, that you and I talked about off camera, was this issue of fighting corruption. He -- Bobby Jindal won essentially because of his platform to fight against corruption that was taking place in Louisiana, in New Orleans. And this is what I think the party needs to return to, restore itself, is when it comes to not only fiscal conservatism, but we lost our way when we stopped keeping our word on fiscal conservatism and the end of corruption.

FEEHERY: The other thing we need, and we need, the RNC needs, has become a farm team for talented people...

WALL: Absolutely.

FEEHERY: Aaron Shock who's 27, Bobby Jindal. We have plenty of smart conservatives and smart guys like Adam Putnam, Eric Canter, Paul Rein (ph)...

WALL: That's right.

FEEHERY: ...who's probably the brightest policy people out there. And we need to make sure that they get - that the care and feeding they need to become future real leaders of the party.

BRODY: I want to quickly play a clip from some supporters of Sarah Palin. And I just want you to -- I want to get your reaction to something like this. It was quite a light moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thank you for fighting for everyday working families and preserving the American dream.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Sarah Palin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for the grace and dignity you showed even when some tried to smear and destroy you.

CROWD: Thank you, Sarah Palin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were those ingredients again for the moose chili?


BRODY: Amy, is it too light? I mean, what's the sense on Sarah Palin in 2012?

HOLMES: I think she's a huge star. We know that. We know that when John McCain picked her, that conservatives, particularly evangelicals, got totally fired up when John McCain wasn't able to do that. She has four years in Alaska. Alaska's a big energy state. Energy's a big political issue. If she proves herself on that, four years from now, she might be a real contender.

FEEHERY: Time will tell. She makes the evangelical base happy. She makes moderates and Independents very, very nervous. She's got to get more experience. And she's got to get some more things under her belt if she's going to be a real leader of this party.

WALL: I think that she has an appeal that Wall Street, New Yorkers, Washingtonians and media elites will never understand. But she has an appeal to a contingency of Americans that do understand and understand that she understands her issues. And I think that she does have a very long and bright future. I don't know about president, but she does have a future in the party.

BRODY: Tara, Amy, John, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

That's it from the view from the right. Just a moment, a face-off on the issues. Donna Brazile back with -- I don't know who she's bringing. Where is she anyhow? Oh, she's bringing Peter.

BRAZILE: Let's put Dick Cheney in charge of selecting a new RNC chair. You know what will happen?

BRODY: What's going to happen?


BRAZILE: I'm CNN contributor Donna Brazile. And this is my co-host David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

We've discussed the issues amongst ourselves. Now it's time for last call. Amy, let me ask you a question. I mean, President-elect Obama will face many great challenges in just a few weeks. Do you think he's setting the right tone in terms of bipartisanship?

HOLMES: I do. And as a conservative, I'm gratified to see that he's keeping Bob Gates, for example, at the Defense Department. I'm happy to see that he has some free marketeer economists on the team. You know, there was some fear when he was elected, will he move left? Will he be a centrist? So far, he's making signals that he'll be a centrist, which I think policy wise are the best way to try to approach these problems.

BRODY: You know, Peter, I wonder though. Doesn't Obama need to go a little beyond Gates to talk about bipartisanship in a cabinet? I mean, it can't just beat Gates only, right?

BEINART: Well, Gates is Defense Secretary. Jim Jones as (INAUDIBLE) worked for John McCain. Then, you know, you go beyond that. You send Jim Leech out to the foreign Republican congressman to the G-20 conference. And Paul Volcker, you know, is in very high esteem with Republicans, served under a Republican president. So I think that's a lot more than George W. Bush did. And remember, he didn't even win the majority of the vote.

BRODY: Let me ask you?

BRAZILE: Well, Governor Palin is going to the state of Georgia to campaign for Mr. Chambliss. But let me ask you. She's also going to meet with President-elect Obama with other governors. What do you think is on her agenda?

HOLMES: Well, hopefully energy. And that's, you know, her big claim to fame being governor of Alaska, that Alaska is right there in the middle of this energy issue. So in terms of economic security, national security. And I also hope that she burnishes her credentials on that issue, so that she can be a powerful advocate four years from now.

BRODY: You know, Peter, I wonder, is there going to be -- regarding economic issues, is there going to be some sense from the Obama administration that everything's going to be tied to the economy in terms of his agenda? In other words, green jobs and infrastructure and public works. I mean, look at the stimulus package. I mean, it just seems that if it's -- somehow they're going to relate it to the economy, to push that through Congress. Is that your sense?

BEINART: I think that's right. And these things are related to the economy. I mean, the truth is if you're going to spend a huge amount of money to get this economy out of a ditch, which they need to, why not spend in it ways that are going to move us to a more energy efficient economy? It seems to me that only makes sense. If you're going to spend a lot of money, why not spend it to modernize and computerize health records, so you can start to bring down health care costs over the long term? It seems to me it's very shrewd. When Americans talk about their economic anxiety, they often mention health care. They're right at the core of the economic anxiety of Americans.

HOLMES: And it's really the best way for Democrats to be selling these plans. And it's going to be improving the economy. Because if they use, I think, other arguments, then Americans will be saying where is this money going to come from? Out of my paycheck? So when Democrats pitch it that way, I think it's the best sales.

BRODY: It really is the economy, stupid again.

BRAZILE: But do you know what I think? I think the American people should expect Democrats to govern a lot more fiscally responsible than the Republicans. Because I think the Democrats will tell the American people, we're going to put the credit card away and stop borrowing. Now but Amy, let me ask you a question. And this is a serious one. What should we be thankful for? This has been a very, very big political year. What's on your menu?

HOLMES: Well, I think Americans should be thankful that we live in a great nation. We live in a nation where we are having this transition of power that's going so smoothly between George Bush and Barack Obama. I think we should be thankful that we haven't had a terrorist attack since 9/11, and that we have our health, our humor. I think it's a wonderful country. We should be thankful for it.

BRODY: I got to tell you, when it come to, you know, Thanksgiving, I'm thinking of turkeys, you know? And I'm thinking political turkeys. And I got to tell you, those folks, GM, and Chrysler, and I mean, they -- talk about turkeys of the week. I mean, you know, these guys come in, you know, there with their tin cups and really wanting more money. I got to tell you, that just...

BRAZILE: No, he's talking about that. But what about those fat cat on Wall Street, AIG, who, you know, kept going to resorts and having big lavish parties when they were, you know, basically begging the American people for a tax cut?

BRODY: No doubt, but that's been a turkey situation for a long time. I'm talking about these guys on Capitol Hill, who came to, you know, they're looking for billions of dollars. And they didn't come with some sort of plan. And then they want to say, well you know what? We'll let Tiger Woods go. And you know, maybe that, the American people will see that.

HOLMES: And they already got $25 billion. And they wanted $25 more. When is it going to end?

BEINART: I have another turkey. Saxby Chambliss in Georgia. I have not forgotten how this man won his Senate seat 60 years ago, comparing (INAUDIBLE), who lost three limbs in Vietnam to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. I hope the people in Georgia don't forget that.

BRAZILE: Well, I just want to say that I agree with Amy when I ask the question. I am grateful for the American people, the American spirit, the resiliency of this country to come back. We're going to need it. And I think President-elect Barack Obama sets the right tone this week.

BRODY: All right, thanks, Donna and of course Peter and Amy. We're going to be right back in a moment with the lightning round. I don't know if there are buzzers or whistles or whatever they are, but we'll have the lightning round in a moment.


BRAZILE: OK, this is the lightning round. David, President-elect Obama is expected to announce his national security team next week. What should we look for?

BRODY: Well, I think we're going to see Hillary Clinton on a stage with Barack Obama as the next Secretary of State. The question to me is going to be, is he going to let her speak? I mean, Geithner was there this past week. And Geithner didn't speak at all. Will Hillary speak on stage next week? I think that's going to be interesting.

And I also think it'll be interesting to see how his national security team is framed. Is going to feel more centrist? Exactly how it will shake down. I'm curious also though about December 2nd. And I know you want-you're going to be talking about that.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I think Hillary Clinton's announcement speaks volumes about President-elect Obama, his commitment, not just to keeping the country safe and secure, but putting people around him that are strong, that understand the crisis that we face, the challenges. So I think she is going to be a good pick for President- elect Obama.

BRODY: And December 2. You got Saxby Chambliss and Jim Morgan.

BRAZILE: I was just in Georgia. There's a lot of excitement on both sides. It's a close race, a virtual dead heat. Sarah Palin is going I think to energize the Republican base. But I also believe that she will energize Democrats and Independents. We will see a record turnout, perhaps 38, 40 percent, which is a record for a run off. And then of course, December 6th, another runoff in my home state of Louisiana, fourth congressional district. Up there Cattle Parish in Shreveport, Louisiana.

BRODY: Very interesting. For my co-host Donna Brazile, I'm David Brody with the Christian Broadcasting Network. Thanks for joining us on the AFTER PARTY. Who knows where the conservatives and progressives went? Maybe they're in an alley somewhere duking it out. Have a good one.