Is America Broken? A Conversation on the 2012 Elections and Beyond - Part 1

Panelists: Amy Gutmann, Charles Blow, John Lapinski, Peggy Noonan, Ed Rendell, Alan Simpson. 

Speaker 1: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2012 David and Lyn Silfen University Forum. Now, please welcome our panelists for this afternoon's forum. Now, please welcome the president of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Amy Gutmann.

Dr. Amy Gutmann: Welcome, welcome, everybody to the University of Pennsylvania and thank you for joining us for the David and Lyn Silfen University Forum. I am very proud to be the president of the University of Pennsylvania and the moderator of this afternoon's forum. We are going to ask, "is America broken?" Before I introduce our panelists, I want to extend a few special greetings. Please join me in offering a very warm welcome to the Penn couple whose generosity and vision has made this University Forum possible. The vice chair of our Board of Trustees, David Silfen, and his wife Lyn Silfen. Please stand so we can thank you. I also want to welcome the Penn trustees who have joined us today, including our previous Silfen Forum panelist, Andrea Mitchell. I'm really delighted that they are with us today, and I also want to take a moment to thank our Penn students, faculty, staff and our amazing alumni community who day in and day out are fervently committed to supporting the widest range of robust and civil debate on our campus across partisan divides because it is in that spirit that this event today is bringing together distinguished political experts to discuss some of the most critical questions facing the United States today. We have the privilege of hearing from celebrated columnist of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, an eminent political science scholar, a former Democratic governor, and a former Republican U.S. senator. Let's meet them.

Charles Blow is the New York Times visual op-ed columnist. Charles refers to his many years of journalism and design experience with the Times as the equivalent of a doctoral degree in current affairs and statistics. Otherwise he would have gotten one here, but the New York Times gave it to him. He joins eye-captivating data with mind-stretching analysis as no other columnist I know and read regularly does. With recent columns on the Decline of American Exceptionalism, America's Exploding Pipe Dream, Bleakness of the Bullied, In Honor of Teachers, and For Jobs, It's War, Charles is no stranger to our subject.

Next to Charles is somebody many people are familiar with here. As Philadelphia mayor, Ed Rendell oversaw what the New York Times called the most stunning turnaround in recent urban history. He also served as general chairman of the Democratic National Committee and for two terms as Pennsylvania governor. This proud Penn alumnus is now an on-air political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, as well as an adjunct faculty member with the Fels Institute of Government here at Penn, where our students consistently rave about his teaching. I'd be willing to bet you, maybe not $10,000, but I'm willing to bet you that he'll be at the Palestra tonight.

Next to our governor, Wall Street Journal columnist and best-selling author Peggy Noonan is a leading commentator on American politics, history and culture. After a meteoric rise to producer of CBS News in New York, she served as special assistant and speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan from 1984 to 1986, and as chief speechwriter for George Herbert Walker Bush when he ran for President in 1998. Peggy's widely-read essays on the state of U.S. politics and politicians are, simply stated, a model of her craft.

Next to Peggy is former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, who served nearly 20 years representing the people of Wyoming on Capitol Hill. In 2010 he was appointed as co-chair of President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, co-chair with Erskine Bowles. It's called Simpson-Bowles, rather than Bowles-Simpson for reasons I figured out because Alan told me that the SB abbreviation was preferable. Leave it to Alan to figure that out and tell me before I went up here, and leave it to me to tell you. Senator Simpson is also co-chair of Americans for Campaign Reform. His biography, published last September, is aptly entitled "Shooting from the Lip."

Next to Senator Simpson is John Lapinski. John is Associate Professor of Political Science at Penn. He is also a member of the Elections Unit at CBS, at NBC News, excuse me. My apologies to the Chairman of the Board of Penn as well. His research on congressional lawmaking, American national institutions and political development calls our attention to how much the policy substance and historical context of lawmaking matters. John is a sought-after teacher and he's the undergraduate chair of Penn's Political Science department. Speaking of the biography of Alan Simpson, I was reading it Alan, and I have to tell this story. There's a story told in your biography that your parents, Milward and Lorna, liked to tell the story about your reluctance as a child when you were very young, to speak. They always laughed and punctuated the story with, "And then we couldn't get him to stop," so I'm looking forward to getting Alan, Charles, John, Peggy and Ed started. I will make them stop in enough time to give you all a chance to ask some questions. Please join me in welcoming our five expert panelists.

Let me set the stage for our discussion. We live in a time when it's been said, "Most people are working harder for less, when others cannot work at all, when the cost of healthcare devastates families and threatens to bankrupt many of our enterprises great and small, when fear of crime robs law-abiding citizens of their freedom, and when millions of poor children cannot even imagine the lives we are calling them to lead. We have not made change our friend." These words were actually spoken almost 20 years ago by President Clinton in his first inaugural address, and Clinton concluded that address by saying, "Our democracy must be the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America." I am about to ask our panelists, is American broken, or will we be the engine of our own renewal?

Let's get started. I came prepared. How I'm going to do this, just so you know, is I'm going to ask some questions to our panelists and I'll direct them to particular panelists and ask for some follow-up if they feel the urge. You can jump in, and I will then move on to be able to cover a lot of ground.

Let's begin by some thoughts about America's future. I'd like to start with two sobering facts about America in the early 21st century. One is that we're stuck in partisan gridlock, and the other is that China and other countries are outpacing us in economic development. Now, some people can respond to that by saying, "Well, the Founders created a government for gridlock. They didn't want government to move too quickly," and they can also point out, and this is a fact, that poor countries when they grow, grow faster than rich countries. However, I want to ask you the probing question. That is, can America, Alan, actually make some hard choices? Are we capable of making hard choices about our future? You led a commission that challenged us to do that. Are we capable of it?

Alan Simpson: I think the people are capable of it. The politicians are largely incapable of it. During the time we worked for a year and the President asked us to do this, Biden called me and said, "I got a real deal for you, Al." That was a great one. Erskine and I took it on, but we go all around the country and tell people what needs to be done, but while we were doing our work people came up to us, and Ed would know this, anyone, and these people in Congress would say, "Save us from ourselves." They have worshiped the God of reelection, of both parties, and they have driving forces out there like Grover Norquist or the AARP, but let me tell you. This country, if you don't understand what a trillion is, you've got a real bit of trouble. If you spend a buck a second right now, you wouldn't hit a trillion for 32,500 years. The big bang theory of the universe, the planets, the sun, was 13 billion, 600 million years ago, and that isn't even close to a trillion and we owe 16 of those babies. If you spend a buck and borrow $0.40, you've got to be stupid. We do that every day, and every day we borrow $3 billion, $600 million bucks. You can do anything you want, and Medicare is on automatic pilot. Healthcare is on automatic pilot and it will soon squeeze out every discretionary source in the country and when you mess with Medicare and Social Security and Defense, you're going to get cremated.

Dr. Amy Gutmann: Peggy, you were in the Reagan White House and it was President Reagan who, with a coalition, a bi-partisan coalition, passed the largest tax reform in modern history. How did that happen, and could something like that still happen today where hard choices are made? Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats got all that they wanted out of that tax reform.

Peggy Noonan: Totally true. I'll tell you, having worked for an American President who was, as a personality, a strong fellow, whose philosophy was clear to people, they understood what he stood for. Who wanted to push the ball forward by dealing with the other side, and who did that successfully, it made a real impression on me. I mean, I was young when I worked for Reagan. I like to claim I was 12. I was actually a little older than that, but he was the first President I ever saw up close. President Reagan had to work with an overwhelmingly Democratic House. For how many years of his eight-year term did Reagan have a Democratic Senate? Two or four?

Alan Simpson: I can't recall, but he worked with everybody.

Peggy Noonan: Two, four, or six. The fact is, Tip O'Neill didn't like Reagan. Reagan had no special affinity with Tip O'Neill, but they knew their country was in trouble. They knew they had to turn taxes around and do some work on spending too, so Reagan had him in and together they made it happen. I am a great, this made a huge impression on me as a kid, so I'm a great believer that you can push the ball forward. I have not, because I saw Reagan up close, and Tip O'Neill, I have not been all that sympathetic to my friends who work in the Obama administration who say to me, "Peggy, you don't understand. The President can't work with those crazy people on the Hill." I say, "darling, I saw a President work with crazy people on the Hill. It can be done."

Dr. Amy Gutmann: Are they a little crazier now, maybe yet?

Ed Rendell: I think that's an important point. I think because of what's happened in American politics where the bases have gotten stronger, right now most incumbents fear primary challengers far more than they fear general election challengers. That makes them sort of skew to the right or the left, depending on which party they're in, and that polarizes the process. I think Peggy made a great point. It's all about presidential leadership. Now I think President Obama in balance has done a good job. He inherited more problems than any president in my lifetime and he's dealt successfully with many of them, but I think he needs to understand more, and I think he's getting there, what presidential leadership is all about. What he should have done after Simpson and Bowles reported back in, sure there was stuff in there that his staff told him was political dynamite if you embrace it. He should have said, "I'm asking all the caucus leaders and I'm taking some other influential members of the Senate and House. We're going to -- Why. We're going to be there for the next three weeks. Now We're going to take Simpson-Bowles, and all of us don't agree on every part of it. We're going to take Simpson-Bowles and we're going to hammer out a program to get this country back on track. Democrats, that means yes, we're going to have to seriously consider title reform. Republicans, there's no way out. You're going to have to consider raising revenue. You owe that to your country far more than any stupid no-tax pledge that you signed for Grover Norquist." Do you all realize that Grover Norquist has a no-tax pledge from 236 members of the Congress, more than a majority, and 41 members of the Senate, enough to filibuster any piece of legislation out of existence? It comes from the President. The President's got to lead. He's got to be the one who comes in and embraces, takes responsibility. That's true for mayors, it's true for governors, and my hope is that once the President gets reelected, that's hope A. Hope B is that on Wednesday, he sends a call out to those leaders and takes them somewhere and puts this together. We've got a two, three-month window where we can actually get some things done for the country.

Peggy Noonan: Very quickly, my dear gentleman. I understand how you feel about Grover Norquist. Grover Norquist says, "No increase in taxes. Sign this pledge," but one of the things Grover says to support his argument, very quickly, is this. They, Congress, the House and the Senate, always come up with these packages, in the past 40 years where they say, "We'll cut spending and we'll raise taxes a little bit by this way or this way, but we'll cut and we'll raise and at the end things will be better. Our deficit will go away." He said, "They always raise the taxes. They come through completely on that part of the promise. They never cut the spending, and that's how we got in the dreadful shape in terms of spending and deficit that we're in now." Ed and Alan, doesn't he have a case?

Ed Rendell: Well that may be so in the past, but we're not going to look back at the past. We're going to look back at the future and we cannot do what we need to do as a country unless we bite the bullet on both ends of the spectrum. We've got to have shared pain. Everybody's got to stand up together and say, "Mr. and Mrs. Americans, you're each going to hate part of this package, but it's the only way we can turn this country around."

Dr. Amy Gutmann: Alan, go ahead. Then we're going to move on.

Alan Simpson: I think it's very important that Clinton did go to Obama after the report and said to him, "If I had appointed a commission by executive order, 18 guys, and 11 came in and said yes, hard stuff, five Democrats, five Republican, one Independent," he said, "I'd wrap my arms around it and take in the credit." Clinton has been a big help to us on this. It's not about just Republicans, but Grover Norquist was dragging that pledge out of people when they unemployment was 4% or 4.3% and when our debt was $4 trillion or $5. Now we owe $16 trillion and you cannot get there by taxing your way out of it and you can't get there by cutting your way out of it and you could have double-digit growth for 20 years and you can't get out of it.

Dr. Amy Gutmann: Okay, so poll after poll show that the American people care most about jobs, jobs, jobs, the economy, the deficit, the economic issues. Now that's not always been the case, but it certainly is the case now. I want to ask a question about the role of social issues in the 2012 primary campaign. In case any of you haven't noticed, there's a primary campaign going on. At the last count there were 20 debates, right? Here's a quote, which preceded the campaign. Charles, who's written about this, I want to ask Charles a question on this. "One of the things I will talk about," you will rapidly see this is a quote, "that no president has talked about before," Rick Santorum has said, "are the dangers of contraception in this country. Many of the Christian faith have said, 'Well, contraception is okay.' It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." Now a little later, fast forward. That was last October. Fast forward, the Obama administration move to require employers to cover the costs of contraceptives as part of employee health benefit plans. That's also created a furor. Charles, when poll after poll show that the American people today care most about jobs and the economy, how do you interpret the role that social issues are playing in this campaign?

Charles Blow: Let me do two things, because these guys are going back and forth so long. First, let's put Reagan into context, Peggy.

Peggy Noonan: Thank you. Thank you Charles.

Charles Blow: Reagan was President so long ago, he may as well be Fred Flintstone. Things have moved forward so much ...

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  If you had said Abraham Lincoln, that would ...

Charles Blow: No, I'm serious. I mean, because the metabolism of politics has moved in such a rapid pace to the point where you are now constantly campaigning you cannot do the things that were possible in the '80s. The idea that YouTube has you on a continual loop about everything you do, you can't do it. Now let's get to little Ricky and his obsession with sex. I absolutely, I mean, part of you understands this kind of obsession, and part of you is horrified by it because it is an absolute assault on sexual freedom in America. People say, "it's a war on women." It is a war on sex. Any sex that exists outside the realm of heterosexual married sexuality is seen as an affront to Rick Santorum and the people who cling to him. When you take contraception and things like that, that is Rick Santorum saying, "Women are the guardians of chastity, and if you should fail in your responsibility to be the guardian of chastity, you must be punished for that failure."

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  You're looking really at me.

Charles Blow: I'm sorry. I'm looking at everybody. Sorry. You asked the question. Alright.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Fair enough. Fair enough.

Charles Blow: It's an outrageous position to take, but he has consistently held that position many, many years, and if you look back at the quotes that, I don't know when that quote's from.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  October. Last October.

Charles Blow: Okay, well there are much older references of Rick Santorum and this obsession. I don't know what happened to him when he was a kid, but there's something there that needs to be resolved with a therapist and not with the presidential campaign.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  John.

John Lapinski: First of all, thank you for not giving me the contraception question. I appreciate that.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  But you were brave to raise your hand.

John Lapinski: Yeah, I suppose so.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  There you go.

John Lapinski: Covering all of these primaries and caucuses for NBC, one of the things though, why I think that the social issues have really come to the front even though when you look at the exit polls time and time again it's the economy or maybe reducing the deficit that's picked as the most important issue, but what you have to remember is there's very low participation this time through. I mean, when you're looking at these contests. I was covering the main caucuses and the GOP chairman of the party came out and said, "We've had record turnout." Well, record turnout meant 100 more people than 2008. 5,500 instead of 5,400 people. Even though it may be the case when you look at these polls that a lot of people are saying the economy, when you actually look at the people who are actually turning out in the caucuses, primarily in the caucuses but sometimes in the primaries, it's a different audience. Again, you're looking at the entire sort of electorate and in fact, these candidates are focusing on who will vote for them.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Okay. That's a perfectly reasonable diagnosis of the problem, but where does it leave us? We have a primary, these are the people, one of whom on both sides is going to be the candidate, from whom the American public, the whole American public is going to have to choose a leader. Is there any way out of this? Peggy?

Peggy Noonan: Sure, sure.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Let Peggy, and then I'll let ... You can't be off the hook because you're a scholar of this stuff, right? Go ahead, Peggy.

Peggy Noonan: Look. First of all, the American people are correct to think that the priority issue to be dealt with in American politics right now is the economy. Without a good economy, nothing else is possible. We cannot defend ourselves. We cannot have diplomacy. We cannot help the poor. We won't have stoplights. All of that is number one. Number two, Rick Santorum, who some of you, I mean he was a Senator from Pennsylvania for a long time. It is fine with me as a lover of free speech that Rick Santorum for at least 10 years that I know of, has now and then talked about contraception. He's lately talking somewhat about I think pornography. Those are personal feelings. That's just fine. What he I think is losing sight of is American candidates for President have to prioritize. The economy is the issue. All of your opinions on these side issues, go, have your opinions, but you have to make a distinction between those things government can appropriately be asked to change, and those things that is not appropriately asked to change.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Although, I didn't pick this quote out of a hat. In the same speech, which was in front of a conservative Republican Christian group, he said, "This is a matter of public policy," not just a matter of personal opinion.

Peggy Noonan: He may have said that, but I don't know what public policy he's thinking of since Griswold.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Neither do I.

Peggy Noonan: Amy, I must tell you, I don't know exactly, I mean he has said many things about contraception, but Protestants and Catholics are not in agreement on contraception. Do you know what I mean? Part of this sounds a little bit like, "I know, let's go back and replay Henry VIII." Do you know what I mean? It's sort of a little bit odd.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Where does it leave us Jews, you know?

Peggy Noonan: Well for one thing, I wouldn't ... Look, there is something that is fair that Rick Santorum himself says. It is that the media, and those who talk about politics, which includes all of us, love to talk about these things. It's a fun topic, so they bait Rick Santorum. They are in heaven if he will talk about contraception tomorrow. It'll be all over the internet. We'll all complain about it on Morning Joe. It'll be great.

Charles Blow: Rick's in heaven if he can talk about it.

Peggy Noonan: No, he's not.

Charles Blow: That's not us.

Peggy Noonan: He realizes what a mistake he made.

Charles Blow: The thing about the economy is that most people, and not that people are slow, but most people don't even understand the economy. People say the economy is issue number one. People understand that I have a job or I don't.

Peggy Noonan: Right.

Charles Blow: People understand there's a neighbor next to me who lost a house…

Peggy Noonan: Well, sure.

Charles Blow: There are people who understand that gas is $4 or if it's $2. People do not understand the economy as a whole, and what people don't understand about jobs and the economy is that now we have moved into a position where the economy for jobs is a global fight to the death and we think that we, somehow or another, we can create jobs here in America that is somehow independent from the international job market. Gallup just released a book in which they talk about the global jobs war. Of the people they've interviewed, of the people on the planet, five billion say they want a full-time job. There are three ... I'm sorry, five billion people are of working age. Three billion say they want a full-time job. There are 1.2 billion full-time jobs on the planet. On the planet, and we somehow now think that we can create more of the jobs here. There's no balancing. The jobs that are going to create the most profitable work are what they call STEM jobs. Science, technology, engineering, mathematics. Those are also the easiest jobs to export because I can do that work from anywhere. I can't have somebody cutting my grass from India. You can't come into my house and clean up after my grandmother from India. You can, however, build a computer from India and ship it to me. We cannot keep thinking of it in that way, and I think the people, in our minds and American voters think that somehow somebody in the White House can generate a million new jobs every month. That's not the way that works. We don't understand the economy.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Let me ask Ed here, because Ed, you've really championed investing in infrastructure and creating jobs. What Charles says is sobering. What can we do in response? We can't ask the American public to tell us what the solution is. They can tell us what the priorities, where the shoe pinches, but what can you and other leaders do to make a difference on the job front? We're going to get off of contraception. Onto jobs.

Ed Rendell: Well again, that's susceptible of a 30-minute answer. I'll try to do it real quickly. Short-term, long-term. Long-term, and both the short-term and long-term solutions are codified in one word. Invest. We have to invest in growth. Long-term investments have to be made in education because Charles is exactly right, it's STEM and sophisticated STEM, means sophisticated Americans trained and ready to invent, to create, to patent. Things like that. That only comes from a superb educational system and if you haven't noticed, our educational system is, depending on what survey you read, our K-12 are 19th and 20th in science and math and all the things that are important. We're getting killed because we don't invest in the right things. I'm not saying throw money at the schools, but invest in the right things. Invest in getting kids interested in science at the elementary school level. Invest in making sure that we give science teachers stipends so that they stay in teaching rather than go in the public sector. There are so many ways we can invest to build up our educational powerhouse. Second, we have to invest in research and development. We cannot stop investing in research and development. Here we sit at Penn, are we still number one in NIH grants, Amy, or two?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  One or two.

Ed Rendell: One or two.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  One or two.

Ed Rendell: The jobs that flow from these NIH grants are significant. They're worldwide. They make an impact on the worldwide market.

Dr. Amy Gutmann: We did not lay off people during the great recession.

Ed Rendell: Right. Absolutely. Short-term…

Dr. Amy Gutmann: And we balanced our budget.

Ed Rendell: Short-term, we go back and invest in the thing that will create the most jobs the most quickly in America, well-paying jobs for people who are right now unemployed. The two sectors of the economy that got hit the hardest in the recession are construction and manufacturing. The answer, and it's short run, but it's not all that short run, is invest in our own infrastructure. First of all our infrastructure needs it. Second of all it creates jobs on the construction site and jobs back in the factories producing the steel, the asphalt, the concrete. Investment. That's the key to growth, and Simpson-Bowles recognized that.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Okay, I'm going to ask Alan now. Other side of the aisle, Democrat now Republican. Investment sounds like spending money, so what's your view on this? Is that part of it, or is it part of the problem or part of the solution and what else do you think?

Alan Simpson: I always tell people if they would, if they would read the 67-page report, which is in English, which was not written for pundits or panjandrums or wizards. It's got words in it like "going broke" and "shared sacrifice". There have been no shared sacrifice in this country since World War II, none, except the wonderful people who volunteer to go fight for us. All of that is in there, including cut and invest, including research and development. It's all in there, and it talks about revenue, because you can't do this without some revenue. You cannot get there, and you can't do it by taxing the rich. You can't get there by that either. Erskine tells that story. The two of us as a Democrat and Republican try to blow up all of those stereotypes of what Republicans are supposed to feel about this. Imagine a commission where we had Andy Stern, and people would say, "Andy Stern, now he's that Commie isn't he, who was a service worker? And 'Dr. No' from Oklahoma? Coburn? Is he on your commission?" Let me tell you, those two guys put together the whole recommendation on what you do with the defense budget and when you get all through the debate, don't worry about hollowing out America. Hollow out your brain when you're talking about--our budget for defense is $760 billion bucks, and every other country in the world combined is $540, including Russia and China. We said, "How many contractors you have in the Defense department?" They said, "Well it's a big amount. It's a range. The range is between one million and 10 million." These are guys knocking off $350 an hour, and then go to TRICARE, which is for military retirees. I was in the military, so was Ed. That little baby is 20 years in retirement, military, you could have done it with the National Guard and Reserve and it costs $53 billion a year and the premium is $470 a year and if you play with that one, you're going to get nailed by the VFW and the American League…

Ed Rendell: The key to what Alan said is cut and invest.

Alan Simpson: We did that.

Ed Rendell: We can do both at the same time. We have to invest smartly and we have to cut smartly.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Okay, so why isn't this happening? Let me give one word as an answer and ask you to expand on it. There's polarization in this country. Political polarization like we've never seen it before, so Olympia Snowe, as you know, recently said she is getting out. Here's what she said. She highlighted that, "There is an atmosphere of polarization and my way or the highway ideologies have become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions." Now John, is that empirically correct or is Olympia Snowe exaggerating?

John Lapinski: Well I mean, I don't think she's exaggerating and obviously she's a Senator. When you look at sort of across time, it's clearly the case that in the U.S. Congress the center has moved away in the sense of it's disappeared. If you were just to look at little visuals, something maybe that Charles had put together, you see something where it used to be the case that you would see people of both parties sort of occupying the center but people of both parties occupying key points, like the filibuster pivot in the Senate. Now what you see, especially like in our center, about the center is you see no center. I mean, you see two bi-modal humps, essentially. It's not there. If you look back, sort of like when Peggy was talking about sort of in the 1980s and you looked at southern Democrats and they were key, pivotal people in both the Senate and also in the House. They were at the center. That center's not, again, it's disappeared.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Here, let me just give you another possibility. I want to know what, because this is really at the center 'of can we fix it', right? You all seem to think it's broken. I mean, that is, nobody's comment ... You, Alan, with a Democrat, Erskine, have come up with a solution and nobody is running with it. Nobody is running with it. Another possibility is not that there are strong polarized ideologues out there, but that they can't come together and compromise. Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch were pretty strong ideologues, but they compromised on a lot. Ronald Reagan was able to sit down with Tip O'Neill and craft a compromise. Why isn't that happening? Ed, why isn't it happening?

Ed Rendell: Well look at Orrin Hatch, good example. Look at Orrin Hatch. Orrin Hatch is facing a challenger in Utah in the Republican primary because he isn't conservative enough and he compromised. That's all you need to know. That's all you need to know.

Alan Simpson: And Dick Lugar, too. Lugar of Indiana is now, but Orrin was very conservative and he and Ted were great friends. I worked with Ted on immigration and other things.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Right.

Alan Simpson: The coin of the realm was trust. The coin of the realm is so tarnished that nobody trusts anybody, and that's the real issue that we saw in our commission.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Why? Why is it… Is it…

Alan Simpson: Because they go to a private meeting and try to work something out and then they come out and all of a sudden there's a television light and like moths they go up and they say, and then they blow the cover of what you were trying to do in that room, and then the media says we're all in a dark room cheating America, but don't forget in this town, in Philadelphia, they never allowed the media within 100 yards of the building when they put together the Constitution.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Right.

Alan Simpson: There was a reason for that.

Charles Blow: I think that media….

Peggy Noonan: Can I speak for a second?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Peggy. Peggy and Charles, go.

Peggy Noonan: Olympia Snowe felt great and deep frustration with the inability of the U.S. Senate to push the ball forward, but she herself was about to enjoy a stunning victory, unprimaried, elected by the Republican party, was totally with her. Hatch is going to win too. I don't mean to undercut the sense that things haven't become more polarized and divisive. They have, frankly, and I think there are a number of reasons for it, but 'the Republicans were going to kill Olympia Snowe' isn't one of them. Do you know what I mean?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  No.

Peggy Noonan: What they were going to do is vote for her.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  No, she was going out because she was feeling fed up.

Peggy Noonan: Yeah. She was feeling frustration. There's a number of things that are happening in America. One that Alan mentions is every four years the number and kind and intrusiveness and ability to destabilize of American media increases, literally every four years. Now, we've got 360 degree coverage with Twitter and YouTube and all that stuff. That is not conducive to sitting down, having a drink and starting to move forward on a deal. On top of that, nobody in Washington can sit down and have a drink and make a deal in part because most of them don't drink anymore. Another reason is that they go home Thursday afternoon or Thursday night because in the age we live in your constituents back home get mad at you if you're not home for the weekend. Senators and Congressmen aren't living together in Washington anymore and so they're not getting to know each other and not going to dinner as they could when Al first came to town and when I first came to town. Another small problem is that Senators and Congressmen often feel so beset and so under demand by their own media people, their strategy people, their political people, that a lot of them spend time quietly in the gym working out. I once asked a Congressman, "Why are you guys so buff?" He said, "Because we're all in the gym working out." I said, "Why? What are you, idiots? You're supposed to be running America. Why are you working out?" He said, "The House gym is the only place I can hide from my staff." There's a lot of disturbance going on in Washington.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Charles?

Charles Blow: Well I think both you guys make a great point about the media. Part of that has to do with Americans' appetite. We cannot excuse Americans' appetite for polarized news and it is growing. You take CNN as a prime example and how they are struggling trying to go straight down the middle and just deliver straight news without leaning to the left or the right. That is no longer selling. You have Fox, which is a behemoth now and has swollen, and now you have MSNBC which is doing extremely well by leaning a little bit to the left and that is actually what we want. We live in news…

Peggy Noonan: A little bit. Yeah. Sorry, we're laughing. Keep going. Keep going.

Charles Blow: Peggy's picking on me. Alright. We live in kind of information silos. We want to be reaffirmed in our beliefs and so we check news sites and blogs that kind of reaffirm what we believe. Even, I work at the New York Times. I know the weight of the columnists relative to the news pages. I could write about my dog getting lost. I don't have a dog, but if I had a dog, I write about my dog getting lost. That would make it onto the top of the most emailed list.

Peggy Noonan: Totally true.

Charles Blow: The story they've been working on about the economy for three weeks would linger at the bottom, and that's a problem about appetite of Americans and what they want out of news.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Go ahead.

Ed Rendell: Except, I believe that the majority of Americans still crave balance. When I was Democratic Chair in 2000, look at the audience in Fox and MSNBC. The audience is minuscule. It's minuscule compared to the vast number of Americans. It's minuscule, right?

Peggy Noonan: Totally true. Totally true.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  So John ...

Ed Rendell: Wait, let me finish my point.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Okay, go.

Ed Rendell: Everywhere that I go in cities where I'm not known, people come up to me and say, "Listen, I watch you on MSNBC. I appreciate the fact that you try to be fair and you try to not demonize the other side." People want intelligent, reasonable responses. They don't want someone on saying, "We're always right. They're always wrong." They want to hear the truth. Think of, what's our audience for our best shows on MSNBC? What is it, Peggy? Total audience.

Peggy Noonan: Gee, I don't happen to know. Seriously.

Ed Rendell: Well you're… A million?

Peggy Noonan: I would think ... News or opinions?

Ed Rendell: A million?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  John probably knows.

John Lapinski: Yeah. Maybe a million, but I mean ...

Peggy Noonan: Oh, the best numbers?

Ed Rendell: A million, right.

Peggy Noonan: About a million. 800,000 to a million.

Ed Rendell: And how many Americans are there?

Peggy Noonan: 303.

Ed Rendell: 300? 303. We're literally a third of a percent.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Let me just, on this, here's The Economist that's written that, "As a campaigner, President Obama was a miracle-working, aisle-jumping, consensus-seeking new breed of politician. Once elected, however, he has not shown any visible sign of rocking the Democratic boat." Now we know that inspiring strategies are needed to win campaigns and they differ from the compromises that are needed to make good public policy. We know, Charles, that people are more excited by hearing the inspiring rhetoric than they are by hearing about a compromise being hammered out. I think Mario Cuomo famously said, "You campaign in poetry and you govern in prose."

 Peggy, you're a master of the poetry, but you're suggesting that the 24/7 ...

Peggy Noonan: Charles is looking at me funny.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Right, right, right. You have suggested that the 24/7 news cycle really has changed things.

Peggy Noonan: Yes.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  My question is, for you, is has it consigned us to politicians who are rewarded for being good speech-makers, but not for being good policy-makers?

Peggy Noonan: Well look, how many politicians on the current scene would you say are really good speech-makers?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  That's true.

Peggy Noonan: Okay? They just aren't that many.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Except the ones who are…

Alan Simpson: Good soundbite.

Peggy Noonan: Thank you.

Alan Simpson: Good soundbite.

Peggy Noonan: Yeah, they're good…

Alan Simpson: Good soundbite. They can't think over 20 minutes.

Peggy Noonan: They match their media age. Do you know what I mean? A speech is sitting down, gathering your thoughts, reflecting, prioritizing, deciding how you want to approach a terrible, sensitive issue. Admitting to yourself that you don't want to just stand in front of a mic and say the first thing that comes to your head because NBC will love it and CNN won't pick it up right away. It's admitting to yourself that you must be reflective. That anything less is unworthy of a great nation at a terrible moment. We don't have enough of that.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  So it's worse than I said. We have neither good speech-makers nor good policy-makers. It's even more broken than I imagined.

Peggy Noonan: I'm telling you, I have never seen America talking so much and saying so little. It is not just our political figures. Honey, you know what I'm talking about. All the mass media, all the constant be, ba de, ba de, ba de. Shut up. Just please, stop.

Alan Simpson: Erskine and I go all over the country and we say, "Pull up a chair. We don't do BS or mush." People are thirsting for that.

Charles Blow: I agree.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Yeah. Yeah.

Peggy Noonan: Yeah, so do I.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Right track or wrong track, you all suggest we are on the wrong track, so let me just quote from a soundbite that Ed Rendell will never live down and he probably doesn't want to live it down. Let me begin by, according to the latest polls more than 60% of Americans think that this country is on the wrong track. Ed, you famously denounced the NFL's decision to postpone the Eagles Vikings game in December 2010, I won't tell how much…

Ed Rendell: Where are you going with this?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Okay. You'll see. Here's the quote. "My biggest beef is that this is part of what's happened in this country." Direct quote. You said, "I think we've become wussies."

Peggy Noonan: Good for you.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Has America really become a country of wussies?

Ed Rendell: Well, let me just say that I have a book coming…

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Alan is trying to hear it. It's wussies, Alan.

Alan Simpson: When people laugh I can't, I had… I didn't have any, but when people laugh then I… Now go ahead, Ed. You make them laugh.

Ed Rendell: I wasn't going to bring this up, but since Amy asked the question, I have a book coming out at the end of May called "A Nation of Wusses." It is absolutely true. We are a bunch of scared rabbits. We have leaders who are afraid to lead. I mean, think about why President Obama didn't pursue Simpson-Bowles. Think about it. It's because his political advisors, and Peggy you know them.

Peggy Noonan: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ed Rendell: Went to him and said, "Oh no. If you're the first one to say we need to change Medicare entitlements, you'll get killed politically." No you wouldn't. People want their executives to be leaders. The reason, if I were to write a political epitaph for me, my best epitaph would be that I got reelected by far, far greater margins than I got elected. It was because I led. I wasn't afraid of the consequences. People disagreed with me about a lot of the decisions I made, but they knew that I led and that I would make decisions that I thought were right. For executives, mayors, governors, county commissioners, presidents, we want people who will lead.

 The President could have easily embraced it and said, "Look, there's some tough stuff to swallow for all of us here, but it's the only way we're going to get better." It's like taking medicine. It's not going to taste good going down, but it's the only way we're going to get better. Lead. And he's not alone. He's not alone.

Peggy Noonan: I totally agree. Everybody in America, they may not know the exact number or whatever, but everybody in America knows we got a spending problem, we got a taxing problem. We got to turn it around. If an American President, and he was elected by 9.5 million votes, so popular, so admired by people, so many people moved by him. He had a Democratic House and a strong Speaker. He had a Democratic Senate. He had high personal numbers. If that guy had taken a chance on this hugely serious public policy issue, the American people would have said, "That guy's got some guts." They would have leaned forward and listened.

 We all talk about the zaniness of the right-wing base. I think it's only fair to mention one of the reasons the President didn't come forward and do the right thing was the zaniness of his left-wing base. He feared them.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Charles?

Charles Blow: I love you Peggy, but I just disagree with that. I mean first of all, you look at the Democratic coalition, there were a lot of blue dogs in there and what we call a Republican in New York, that's what they call a blue dog in the South. I mean, those people are pretty much the same people and just because they have a D behind their name doesn't make them a true liberal in the sense of what we would call a liberal. He didn't have the broad coalition that it looked like on paper. The second thing is that he did take some chances. He didn't take all the chances because the first one he came out of the gate with, which was healthcare reform, which maybe should not have been the first one, who knows, but it was a big thing that we have to deal with. The rising cost of healthcare and making sure that most, if not all Americans are covered by some form of healthcare. Our health outcomes are horrendous when you look at us compared to other developed countries. We have to deal with this issue if we want to deal with the Medicare issue later on. We have to get on the front end of that, making people healthier going into old age. What we're doing is ignoring that front end part and dealing with paying for all of it on the back end. That is an enormous problem and that sucks all the money out of being able to make investment in the future. When you have a country like China that is outspending us as a percentage of GDP on infrastructure 3:1, at least, you now cannot say we are building an economy for the future. We literally have bridges that we cannot get goods across because it may crumble. He dealt with one of the big issues and got beaten up horribly for it, and still is being beaten up for it and the entire Republican primary season is built around opposition to the one thing on the domestic side that this President pushed through. It's not really fair to say, I don't think, to say he could have done eight more kind of grand things with this Congress.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  We're not going to settle that, but we got it out. Let me get something else out, and Alan you're on the spot here. Campaign finance and money in politics. We can't have this discussion about is America broken without noting that through January of this year, 59 donors, mainly individuals, but also a few corporations and unions, each made contributions in excess of a half a million dollars to various super PACs. That totaled more than $80 million since January. Just to put that in proportion, Richard Nixon's slush fund was about $700,000. We're talking $80 million. That's only a portion of what's been spent to date. Those super PACs account for 61% of all dollars donated to super PACs. 61% from 59 individuals or corporations and unions. Are the super PACs and money subverting American politics, Alan?

Alan Simpson: Well first let me just say something about Ed. The reason he gets away with stuff is his sense of humor. People are so serious today that they think if you have a sense of humor you're silly, but Ed and I have learned how you just get them that way and then drive a truck right over them. That's how you do it. And you got to lead. You got to take flack. Let me tell you, Bill Bradley…

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Make a joke about money, Alan.

Alan Simpson: I know. Bill Bradley and I and Bob Carey and Warren Redmond were part of Americans for Campaign Reform. We were slogging along, which is a terrible thing to say, but it was called Federal Financing of House and Senate Races, and it would have cost $1.6 billion. Well earmarks cost us $16 billion, so I don't worry and then somebody will say, "Well we spend more on fireworks than that." It's always a reason, but let me tell you. This is going to end up to be 'Buy a President' next year. Go buy yourself a President. I mean, look at the investment of Newt and look at the President. He's decided now he can't sit outside. They're all in it. It's not just the decision.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  At the rate this is going, it's going to be fire sale, Alan.

Alan Simpson: Well Foster Friess is my neighbor in Cody, Wyoming and he's buying Rick Santorum. If Santorum gets to be President, which will never happen, then Foster Friess, he will fill every cabinet position.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Assuming that doesn't happen, is there any way out of this?

Alan Simpson: Yeah, it's call democracy. You can't hate politicians and love democracy. People hate politicians but they love democracy, and you can do something in November. I think the guys that are going to continue to pander and give you the old apple sauce and say I can't do this and I can't do that, may get beat and that would be the greatest thing for America, right there.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  John, given that the Supreme Court has decided in Citizens United that money is free speech in politics, what can be done? What should be done?

John Lapinski: Well the problem first of all is that it could get worse, right, in the sense of what Senator Simpson said. Right now, Newt Gingrich has been kept alive essentially by one family. Right? I mean, I think it's $11 million that's been given to his campaign. Maybe it's more now, I'm not sure. Sheldon [Nielsen 00:57:27] could give $100 million in the general election. There's no reason why you have to say, I mean, you listed $61 million. It could be $200 million. It could be $300 million in the sense that when you look at…

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  But after while, doesn't the money, I mean there's got to be a diminishing marginal utility to this money. After all, they're not literally buying votes. People are voting for these people. It's a long slog, the Republican primary's a long slog. So is the Democratic primary last time.

Alan Simpson: The cynicism that goes with that isn't, this is terrible. The little guy, every American thinks this is evil, and it is. It's just wrong.

John Lapinski: Well a lot of people actually think, when you actually think about the GOP nominating contest this time, a lot of people think the tremendous amount, I mean most of the super PAC money is going into advertising, right, so the campaigns can't use it to fund themselves because of the requirement for independence, so a lot of people think that's why there's such low participation. You get a state that gets completely blanketed with negative advertising and then true, it might help a candidate that actually, that the advertising is used for, but nonetheless it might actually sort of depress participation and turnout. In the short term, of course there's nothing to change, that we could do to change Citizens United. In the sense that maybe I will have to drink my half glass empty wine after this panel, but it's really hard to figure out in the short term.

Peggy Noonan: I want a solution.

Ed Rendell: I think the short term, long term. First of all, the SEC as you know banned anyone who does underwriting of municipal or state or county bonds from contributing to those campaigns. That was upheld by the courts. It was upheld by the courts because it had some relationship to their job function. We should pass a law, and the Congress could do this, saying that no lobbyist could give or raise money for any candidate for federal office. That would have a dramatic effect on the reign of special interests on campaigns. If we just took away the lobbyists' ability to raise money and to give money to federal political campaigns. That's number one. That's the short-term thing that we can do and that's constitutional. Are they ever going to do it? Not on your life. The second thing we could do is begin the process, and I know it's unwieldy and it's difficult and you look at ERA and gosh, with all the passionate women behind ERA, that failed, but we could begin the process of amending the Constitution to say that political speech cannot be considered to be free speech. Who could do that? Well the occupiers could do it. The occupiers searched long and hard for some seminal issue to bring them together, to actually do something positive. Get out there and let's change the Constitution.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  You don't really mean that political speech shouldn't be free speech?

Ed Rendell: Certain forms of political speech can be regulated. You can't under the second amendment, you can't own a surface to air missile because there are limits on the second amendment. There should be limits on what is considered to be free speech. And there are limits. You can't go into a movie theater and cry, "Fire."

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Falsely.

Ed Rendell: Right.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Thank you. People always forget that.

Charles Blow: We shouldn't also, this is a small point, but big in another way. We shouldn't disconnect the media point from the money point.

Ed Rendell: Right.

Charles Blow: When you have this amount of money flowing, where do you think those negative ads are being aired? Media companies are now making a fortune because of Citizens United and that means that right now you have a Republican primary, so presumably they're airing on channels they think Republicans are watching. When you have a Democratic primary, you will have it on the other side. Media companies stand to gain a tremendous amount from Citizens United, so I'm not sure how much pushback you're going to get on that front.

John Lapinski: It's true. The Citizens United against the Local Television Recovery Act.

Charles Blow: Right.

John Lapinski: Right? I mean in the sense of like if there was…There's no question about that. It's true.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  It's absolutely true.

John Lapinski: Just to take 60 seconds to follow up on what Governor Rendell said, I think the solution, if you want a solution, is exactly what you said. Congress passes something. There's some evidence that some people, it's potentially that the Supreme Court wasn't 100% happy with the outcome of Citizens United, so then it gets challenged and then you get a five/four sort of upholding go on. That's what you could do.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  We have not said anything about foreign affairs and the decade of wars that we've had, so let me pose this question to you again. Alan brought up the question of whether this country is willing to make sacrifices. Very recently retired Major General Robert Scales wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post. He wrote that, "No institutional effort can make up for the mistake at the top of our trying over the past 10 years to fight too many wars with too few soldiers." It is striking how many wars we've fought and how few Americans have sacrificed in order to fight them. Many soldiers and Marines have been doing three to five consecutive tours in close combat units. A number that I saw was that 200,000 have some form of traumatic brain injury from this. One might add, or I would add, with an unclear or unrealistic sense from our political leaders of what counts as victory.

Peggy, do you agree with Scales, and is that a serious problem with America being broken?

Peggy Noonan: Yes. In 2006 I went to U.S. Army War College and spent a week there in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Carlisle barracks. I simply sat with guys and women from U.S. Army, Air Corps, Navy, some Naval visitors, Marines, and they poured out to me their exhaustion. They told me that no, it wasn't their second and third tour in Afghanistan or Iraq. They always did both. It was their fourth and fifth tour. One of the things that hurt my heart so much was to see how their families were coming under stress. You know?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Yeah. It's just heartbreaking.

Peggy Noonan: They had young boys who were children when this whole thing started, but now that boy is hitting 12 and 13 and needs a father, and that father is not there. Look, is the cost enormous? Just terrible? Yes. We are on the brink now. There are more people who think they wanted the U.S. to take military action in Iran or even become involved in Syria. The Republican party, I think every candidate, save Ron Paul, has come forward and said, you know, they're sort of out-machoing each other and some of them, one of them will say, "I think we have to bomb Iran on Monday," and the other will say, "How stupid of you. It should be Sunday." Another one will say, "Oh, you're a fool. We should bomb on Friday." They're out-toughing each other and it's, to my mind, dreadful policy and bad thinking, but if you want to just think of the small timeness of life and the politics of it, they are giving Mr. Obama, who in my view has a little less going for him right now than some of his greatest fans think, they are giving him a gift. They are saying, "Guess what? We're going to be, the Republicans, the war party, so you can be Mr. no, be circumspect, be slow, don't want this, but we're all going ahead." No one's talking about it now. They're going to be talking about it this fall.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  The politics aside, I realize you've focused, and rightly so, on the politics, but the politics aside, this strikes me as more obscene than anything you can say about sex. I mean, that you just frivolously ...

Peggy Noonan: You confused me. Geeze. I thought, where is she going?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  I confused you?

Peggy Noonan: Look, look, look. If you are going to go back to Santorum, then I have to do a defense of this. Mr. Obama and his party in their continuing identification of Obamacare decided in their lack of wisdom that ...

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  I wasn't going back there.

Peggy Noonan: That the constituent items belonging to the Catholic church would have to pay for things the Catholic church cannot pay for because they find it morally repugnant. That is after all what put the whole issue out there in a big way, and I think the Republican party is completely correct to resist this on constitutional infringement. Thank you very much. I just think that had to be pointed out.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Obama retreated from that, President Obama. I wasn't going there, Peggy.

Peggy Noonan: Well he did something, but anyway.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  I was talking about the obscenity of, and I was using it metaphorically, of frivolously suggesting that more of the same, and they're going to be the same soldiers and Marines, are going to get sent to yet another front without a clear plan. There's a ...

Peggy Noonan: Am I not clear on how I feel about that?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Yes, you are.

Peggy Noonan: Something tells me we are all probably in agreement on that. Would we be?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Are we?

Charles Blow: I think we are in agreement.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  I want to hear Charles agree with Peggy.

Charles Blow: No, absolutely. Absolutely.

Peggy Noonan: There are times Charles and I do agree.

Charles Blow: The answer before that last answer. I definitely agree on the military front. The military participation, these are the other 1%. This is the 1% that nobody every speaks about, so we talk about the rich 1% but the other 1% is the people who actually sign up in the voluntary army and go and serve and when you look at the…

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Let me just pause for a second, because I think we should just, with a round of applause, salute that 1%. We can all do that. They have put their lives on the line for us. Go ahead.

Charles Blow: To tie it back to the other part, if you look at the U.S. Department of Defense, it is the largest single employer in the world, so you don't have enough soldiers to fight, but you are employing millions of people to pretend to invent things or follow people or eavesdrop on people or whatever, and trying to police the world and you have to prioritize how you are going to have a Defense department. Is it going to be a number of troops, or is it going to be a number of snoops? If you don't figure out which of those things you want and how you're going to prioritize that and pay for that, then you have a real problem because then you have the exploding budget problem that ignores the fact that we have to build things in America. It ignores the fact that we have to educate American children better than we are doing now if we want to attract the best jobs of the future. Those are the things that we need to be spending that money on and not on video game drones to go and drop bombs on everything that moves across the desert. That's what we have to prioritize.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Ed?

Ed Rendell: Well first of all, the point that Peggy made about the forced depletion is absolutely right. The point you made Amy, those 200,000 with traumatic stress syndrome, a lot of them get sent back, including maybe the guy who killed at 16 and that's a huge problem.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Yeah.

Ed Rendell: There's an answer to forced deployment dropping. There's an answer to having the same military policy in this country, and that's called the draft. Does anybody think, does anybody think if we had a draft we'd still be in Afghanistan? Does anybody think if we were drafting Senators' sons and businessmen's sons and bankers' sons we'd still be in Afghanistan? Not on your life. If we're talking about shared sacrifice, if we're talking about shared sacrifice we still should have a volunteer Army, because it's a good way for young people to get skills and training, but we also should be honest with ourselves and say, "If we're going to do this, all Americans are going to have to do this."

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  I'm going to ask a wrap-up question before I ask for questions from our wonderful, engaged audience. The wrap-up question is, I want each of you to show us your cards. Who's going to win the Republican primary nomination? Who wins in November? A bonus question, who will the Republican nominee choose as his running mate, Vice President? If you're willing to go that far. Okay?

Charles Blow: Romney wins the nomination. Obviously there's no way that Santorum is going to win. But it's interesting, and I like the fact that he's in. It gives me something to write about. Romney wins. I have no idea about that, because Romney is such a robot and nobody connects with Romney and even the base doesn't like Romney. Obama is a campaigning machine. He will have a tremendous amount of money, and you put him in a room and he is magnetic. People discount him now because of his failures, but that man in front of a microphone with some lights in his face, is amazing. I would not discount him as a campaigner, so he's going to have to pick somebody, Romney has to pick somebody to kind of give him some energy and make him a human being, which is going to be hard.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Who wins in November?

Charles Blow: Oh, Obama wins. I mean, I don't believe that…

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Ed?

Ed Rendell: Well I think Charles is right. Romney's greatest weakness through these primaries is that he can't connect with the far right and people say, "Oh, it's horrible. Romney has a huge problem. He can't win the south." You mean to say Romney's going to lose Alabama to Obama? Not on your life. That huge problem is a plus come general election. It is not a problem. It is a plus. I think Romney will be the nominee eventually, but God knows he's trying to lose it, but I think he's going to become the nominee. I think when you look at the importance of the Latino vote, he's going to take a hard look at Rubio. I don't know whether Rubio conjures up the inexperienced Senator argument. I don't know if Rubio's got, every once in awhile Peggy I hear stuff about Rubio in Florida. I don't know if there's anything to that, but I think that's where he has to go.

Peggy Noonan: That was good.

Ed Rendell: Rubio's young and exciting and does have some energy. If he plays the conventional game, he'll take Rob Portman, who is very capable, terrific guy, Senator from Ohio, which he has to win.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Who wins in November?

Ed Rendell: Obama. Obama.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Peggy?

Peggy Noonan: Well I think the consensus that Romney will win the Republican nomination is probably correct. I think that is probably true, although this has been such a freakish year that one feels reluctant to say something obvious, because so many obvious things had turned out not to be true. But you got to figure, the odds are Romney. For his Vice President, he would do well to think creatively. Maybe that will include Mr. Rubio. Maybe it will include Rob Porter. Maybe it would include Condoleezza Rice. The Republicans have a very broad second tier. They will have fun picking. As much fun as they did in picking, didn't have picking their Presidential nominee, they'll have that much fun picking the Vice President.

 Now you will say, "But who's going to win?" A, I don't know. B, where would I put my money? On Romney, not on Mr. Obama.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Okay. Okay. Alan?

Alan Simpson: Well there's a great ...

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  I didn't ask you how much.

Alan Simpson: I would say Romney would be the one, and there's a great thing in politics which is a forgotten axiom. People don't vote for anybody, they vote against. If Obama keeps messing around and he gets overexposed, I mean if you said that tonight at 7:00 tonight the President of the United States would be on for a special, not many people would show up because he's on every day, and when he's on, he's pandering. When they're all on, they're pandering. Every single one of them pandering to the people, just giving them mush. People are tired of that, and if the gas prices go and things happen, it won't matter what Obama does from the headquarters up there with [Axelrod 01:15:28] running the shop in Chicago. It'll be that, and I think Portman would be a remarkable candidate. I've known him for about 30 years. Vice President.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Are you predicting or prescribing?

Alan Simpson: I think things are going to be chaos. This is nothing yet. At the end of the 31st of December, are you going to ignore and get in back $3.8 trillion bucks by letting this tax thing, these guys off the hook on that? You can go find money in the street if you get to the 31st of December. Get the tax cuts, forget them. Pull that $3.8 million into the economy. Pull in the stuff we did back in July, get the stuff out of sequestering and have about $5 trillion bucks to play with and get out of the hole.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  I hear you. Romney, Portman, and who wins in November?

Alan Simpson: I think that Obama will have overextended himself. His political people have him on a horse that he'll be exhausted to ride it.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  So Romney?

Alan Simpson: Yes.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Okay.

Peggy Noonan: Wow.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  John, just want to… We're keeping…

Ed Rendell: Break the tie, John. Break the tie.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  We're going to get you back.

John Lapinski: Yeah, break the tie.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  John, the scholar speaks. Quickly.

John Lapinski: I think quickly that Romney seems to have the delegates. You listen to his delegate math and then you think you don't want to hear it again, but in any case probably Romney. But as Peggy said, who knows with this race. It's just so unpredictable. I think maybe Rubio, except maybe Romney's jealous of his hair. It's the only person who has better hair than Romney. I would like to sit on the decision desk into the future, so I'm not going to say who's going to win. I'm going to keep it as a tie for the general.

Alan Simpson: We'll be watching.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  You mean you can't say who you think is going to win?

John Lapinski: Who knows.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Come on, John.

Peggy Noonan: He shouldn't, he works for an American network. He shouldn't come forward and say that.

John Lapinski: Yeah, I'm not going to say either way.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Okay.

Ed Rendell: Peggy, so do you and I.

Peggy Noonan: Huh?

Ed Rendell: So do you and I.

Peggy Noonan: Yeah, but you know what, I don't mind.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  That's her job.

Peggy Noonan: I don't mind.

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  Okay.

Peggy Noonan: Do we not know how I feel in these deals?

Dr. Amy Gutmann:  They could go on and we would love to hear them go on, and therefore I want to, there's no better…(Continue to Video, Part 2)