2:30 P.M. EST
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Foreign Press Center’s Election Day briefing program. Our first briefing is going to be with Jerry Hagstrom, who is a columnist for the National Journal, and he’ll talk about the state of the campaign on Election Day.
MR. HAGSTROM: Well, thank you. It’s very good to see all of you, some familiar faces, some new faces. I’m just going to ask for a show of hands as we start here: How many of you have – how many of you live and report from the United States and how many of you have come here for the election? Just one, two, okay, three, okay. Well, then for most of you, aren’t you breathing a sigh of relief? I mean, it’s going to be over finally, and we’re going to have a result. I will tell you that I quit watching the Sunday talk shows – are we okay? Oh. I quit watching the Sunday talk shows a couple months ago because I just couldn’t stand it. It was all so repetitive. And then this past Sunday, I did watch them all again, and there were a few interesting things, but it’s all been said so many times.
But I was fascinated that last night, as I was driving in my car, I could really feel the intensity of the contest in Virginia, and it is obviously a contest for the women’s vote in northern Virginia, because the ads were all about abortion, abortion rights. And I even heard an ad from the National Right for Life against – or association against Planned Parenthood. So you could really get a sense of the – as I said, of the intensity of that battle. And Virginia may, at this point, be the closest state in the country in both presidential race and in the Senate race.
In terms of where the campaign stands at this point, well, as you know, President Obama is in Chicago today, and Mitt Romney is in Pittsburgh and in Cleveland doing those last-minute stops. But it’s – at this point, campaign appearances – I also did get an email from the Obama campaign that Obama is doing a series of local media interviews from Chicago today. They didn’t tell what markets he was doing interviews for, but I’m sure that it’s in the competitive states, in the battleground states.
So I’m going to talk today a little bit – at 2:30 in the afternoon, what can I tell you? Well – like we have a saying in Washington, it’s all been said, but not everybody has said it. Well, I think this time almost everybody has said it. So I’m not going to repeat the things that have been said by the various commentators or go over the list of battleground states, because I’m sure that you – that you have all these altogether. I am – I’m going to try to put the situation in a bit of a context, hoping that maybe this will be helpful to you in your writing today. And then after some minutes of that, I’ll be happy to take any questions that you have.
First of all, I think to understand this year’s election, we do have to go back to 2008 and what an incredible election it was. No matter how this turns out, we don’t have the sense of excitement this year that we had in 2008, which was definitely a watershed – I mean, the election of the first black President of the United States and also the – thank goodness we don’t have the intensity of feeling – that surrounded the economic crisis that year. I don’t think anybody would want to go back to that. But as I look at – I mean, I think to understand what’s going on in 2012, we have to understand the situation in 2008.
And first of all, the choice of Barack Obama by the Democratic Party was nothing short of incredible. When the year began, we all thought that Hillary Clinton – I would say everybody in the sort of establishment media thought Hillary Clinton was going to be the nominee. She had done everything right. And I will never forget being in Iowa on the night of the caucuses, which was the first time that I saw Barack Obama on the campaign trail, and being – going to see – he won sort of unexpectedly. I mean, we sort of knew by the time that it came. But going to see him speak and realized that he sounded so inspirational, I could see why all those young kids were in the audience, why they were there instead of supporting Hillary Clinton. At the time, I said Barack Obama sounds like he’s running to lead the country. Hillary Clinton sounds like she’s just running for – just in a job interview for a job, and she lists all the things that she has done. She did not have an inspirational message. But Barack Obama did.
Now, on the Republican side in 2008, it was a very weak situation. The Republicans had grown disenchanted with President Bush, most of all because the Bush Administration had spent so much money, and the debt was increasing. And secondly, I think, in retrospect, John McCain was a weak candidate. Many Republicans considered him too liberal on social issues and on immigration. If you recall, he admitted himself that the economy wasn’t his strong suit, and then during the election year when Obama – or not Obama, but when Bush had the meeting in the White House, McCain really had nothing to say. And then finally, when he picked Sarah Palin, that was kind of the last straw for a lot of people, and she became very famous, but I don’t think anybody is taking her seriously as a political leader today.
In any case, Obama got 52 percent of the vote in – of the popular vote in 2008, a clearer majority than Bill Clinton ever had, because then when he was running, Ross Perot was in the mix, and he didn’t get the magical 50 percent. However, when you think of how weak McCain and Palin were, it’s quite surprising that they even got 48 percent. So even though we went through this incredible period of glory for Obama in the early days, I think that he was always in a position of – not of weakness exactly, but a situation in which his position in the country was not secure in terms of whether people accepted him.
Now, my belief is – and, of course, two years later we have this incredible reaction against Obama, you might say against the Democrats. And if I look at that, the way that I viewed it was this: On election day, the Republicans didn’t really turn out very well because they didn’t really like – they didn’t like McCain and Palin, and they were disappointed in Bush. They were very polite through inauguration day, and the day after the inauguration they woke up and said, “My god, we’ve really elected a black liberal and he’s in the White House. What are we going to do now?” And to me, that was when you had the beginning of the Tea Party movement. And it’s still something that is hard to define, although I think you could pretty much know that it is the right wing of the Republican Party as it has long existed but come back in a new form with a new level of excitement.
And yet in the first two years of the Obama Administration, it was an incredible period of policy making, if you remember the passage of the Dodd-Frank Financial Services bill, of Obamacare, of the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military. I personally also covered two areas in food and agriculture which were very important, which were a new food safety – well, a bill called the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is used – which is to increase food safety for fruits and vegetables and things other than meat, and secondly, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which is to improve the nutrition that children get in the schools.
Now of course, if any of you are following this these days, we’ve had a reaction against that and some right-wing Republicans are using this in the election, although not very many, but there are people who are saying that the kids aren’t getting enough to eat in school. At the same time, of course, the reason that these new rules were put into effect is to try to deal with our very severe obesity problem in the country.
But what I’m coming to here is that the fact that there has been such a strong give-and-take I don’t think should be shocking to people. The United States has done some radical things in the last few years. We’ve elected a black president. We finally passed nearly universal health care. And I think that if you look in any political period in which you have a very strong reaction – I mean a strong change, you’re going to get a reaction. And that’s what we have experienced in this country.
And I do get frustrated when I find articles that are written, sometimes by foreign journalists, not necessarily people who are living here but people who are resident in their own countries, who believe that somehow the United States is falling apart or we should not – that there shouldn’t be any controversy over these things. These are controversial things, and they are hard, I think, for any society to go through. And so I think that that has been the situation, and it’s the situation we’re in with today.
And this leads me to make my major point of today, which is that no matter who wins tonight, this country is going to remain very politically divided and almost equally politically divided. And graphically, the best way that I could tell you that – to understand this, is if you think – if you take the map of the United States, and you create an L starting with Montana and North Dakota at the top, going down south to the bottom of the country with the exception of New Mexico and go to the right. That describes the conservative section of the country. But then there is a second way in which you should, if you can, look at the difference between conservatism and liberalism, and that is that if you can get a hold of a map that shows you the votes by county or by region, and then you would see that within each state you would have this split – maybe not each state, because there would be a few like Kansas and Nebraska and North Dakota where you probably wouldn’t even have a blue point. But within most states you would have the rural area of the state red, and the urban area of the state blue.
So of course, the other side of this L is that on the two coasts you have the blue area, you have the Democratic area, the liberal area. It’s really a split between the more sophisticated, more cosmopolitan coasts and the center of the country where change is slower. But then within even the blue states on the coasts, you still have the conservative areas in the rural areas. But within the red areas, you also have these cosmopolitan centers. And so it is this incredible split. Now, I think that we will work this out over time, that there will be more of a consensus about the future of the country, and that part of the split at the present time is one of age.
Even if you talk to evangelicals who are generally so conservative on – have been so conservative on everything, you can find evangelicals who are very concerned about the environment, because they view that in God’s terms; it’s God’s earth, and it should be well taken care of. And at the same time, even among conservatives, there is much more acceptance of gay rights and even – and certainly in the military and gay marriage than you ever would have thought, because more and more gays have come out to their conservative families and the families have had to deal with this. And once they deal with it, they don’t find it as shocking as they did beforehand.
But on the abortion issue, we still have quite a split. And one of the odd things is that younger women do not seem to be as quite concerned about abortion rights as older women. But the older women say that’s because the younger women have always had the right to abortion and they’ve never had to think – never really had to think twice about it.
So these are still unsettled issues, and I think that we will be facing them for quite a while. But that doesn’t mean that I think this is a weak country that can’t do anything. A lot of incredible things still happen in the United States. And whatever happens tonight, the last four years sure have been interesting, haven’t they?
I mean, if you just think of it as a journalist and good stories, so much has happened. I think of how different the country is, really, than it was four years ago, and you can say that that’s good or you can say that that’s bad. And I also think that from the standpoint of the economy that we are reaching a – that the economy is improving and that it will – that the future is brighter than the past, even if it will be a slow recovery.
Now, I’d just like to – I have a few random things to throw out at you just because I think they might be interesting for you or they might generate stories. These are not in any particular order. They are notes that I have made from things I have been observing. Important thing about the electorate: The electorate is getting less and less white, slowly less and less white. In 2008, 77 percent of the voters were white. This year, it’s most likely going to be somewhere between 74 and 72 percent. The big problem for the Republican Party over the long term is that they do not have much appeal and are not making much of an appeal to minority voters. And so as the electorate becomes less and less white, it’s harder for them. My National Journal colleague Ron Brownstein noted on Sunday that if – that Romney is counting – if he were to win, that 90 percent of his vote will be white. And that’s incredible in a society as diverse as the United States now is.
On the other hand, I don’t have an exact percentage for the Obama white vote, but a majority of white men have not voted Democrat for president since 1964 when Barry Goldwater ran and Lyndon Johnson was elected. So the big problem for the Democrats is attracting white men, and the interesting thing about why is Obama apparently doing as well as he is in Ohio, and it is because they are getting more of the votes of the white working class there, the message about saving the auto industry has been crucial there. And so the – as I understand it, the – this is both men and women, though, in the working class, that it’s – that the working-class white vote is about 32 percent for the Democrats but in Ohio it’s 42 percent. So this is very, very important.
Now a couple of other things to throw out here. We have this issue of bipartisanship. People say they want the voters to work together, and then they tell their members of Congress don’t compromise on anything. So I’m actually quite sympathetic to members of Congress, and I often find their own views much more nuanced than they can live with. I mean, they feel that they don’t dare say some of these – they would like to take more nuanced positions, but they don’t dare. One of the problems we’ve got is for members of the House and members of the Senate is the fear of primaries. They are so afraid of being primaried, is the verb, from the right or from the left. And we saw this this year when Senator Lugar lost his slot in Indiana because they voted for a right-wing candidate, Mr. Mourdock. And so that – and there was also a case I covered in Pennsylvania where a moderate Democrat in the House was thrown out by a more left-wing Democrat. So they’re both very worried about that.
Just to mention here on the electoral college, which is controversial to a lot of people, there is, of course, the argument that it’s possible once again we could have a president who gets the electoral college vote but not the popular vote. That might happen. We will see. But one thing you should keep in mind is the electoral college does shift with the census, so the electoral college votes have moved to those states where a population has gained.
And another point I will make here related to that is the campaign being focused on these battleground states has actually made the campaign quite diverse, because if you think of the battleground states – Ohio, Nevada, Colorado, New Hampshire – it has forced the candidates to deal with a wide variety of states. But in the end, the issues actually this year have been mostly very national. They have been about the character of the two candidates. They’ve been about health care. They’ve been about the economy in general, the auto industry. But there has been campaigning throughout the country, which is, I think, a very good thing.
To emphasize my point before about the country being divided, the two parties and the two candidates are going after very different electorates. They’re trying to turn out different people. And so in the end, tonight it really depends on what the get-out-the-vote effort is really like. The Democrats maintain that they have the stronger get-out-the-vote effort, and I think that’s why you’ve been seeing most of the polls showing that it’s more likely that Obama will win. And I will – at that point, I will tell you also that I don’t have any exit polls today, but I did talk last night with a consultant for the AFL-CIO who says that they believe that they are fine in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Nevada. And if Obama wins those three states, it will be almost impossible for Romney to get the 270 he needs for the electoral college. But the consultant did also acknowledge that as of yesterday Pennsylvania was even, and so that – you can see why Romney went to Pennsylvania the last day and why he went to Ohio today. So anyway, sort of, Pennsylvania’s the new state to watch.
The other issue, the reason why Minnesota has come up in recent days is that Minnesota has a gay marriage initiative on the ballot and it is believed that that will draw a lot of conservatives to the polls more than usual, although I think the Democrats are fairly sure that they will hold Minnesota for the President.
Let me see if I have any other points here that I want to make. Okay, just a point here. This was made on one of the Sunday talk shows. I’ll repeat it here. The Obama campaign is depending on its skills at getting out the vote while the Romney campaign is going more on enthusiasm. So nobody is saying that the Republicans have the get-out-the-vote structure that the Democrats have, and so we’ll have to see.
There are certain – there has been more momentum for Mr. Romney in the last few weeks, but I do want to make a point about the debate, that first debate. A lot of people have said the election just depended on that debate and the whole thing is that President Obama did not respond well. I think that even if he had responded well that Mitt Romney’s performance in that debate was so good that it would have projected him anyway. And then you would have had – you have more of a buildup through the advertising, et cetera, bringing Mitt Romney to the center. It’s important to remember that Mitt Romney was elected the governor of Massachusetts, one of the bluest states in the country, so no one should have had the idea that he did not have an ability to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters. He obviously did have that skill. And I just – I think we – that this campaign would have gotten tight even if President Obama had performed better in that debate. So I just wanted to make that point, because I think it’s just gone completely overboard, the analysis that that one debate did everything. Although there was an audience of 67 million people. That’s an – it’s hard to do anything to compare with an audience of 67 million people.
So as we – I think I should stop here and let you ask questions. I’m going to throw out a few things. Okay, if Obama loses tonight, I will bet you that we will suddenly have a whole bunch of stories of the wonders of the last four years. So think about all the things that happened in the last four years. You may need to write about them.
If Mitt Romney wins, I think we will probably have a lot of stories about hope and what will the new – what would actually happen if he runs for – if he becomes President, what will the economic policies be.
But I also think that we will then plunge into a whole lot of stories about if Obamacare is repealed, what next. Because healthcare has been – except for the large-scale debate over whether Obamacare was good or not, it’s been off the table for the last three years, the last two years. All this – remember – if you go look – go back to 2008, all the stories we were doing about people who didn’t have healthcare and all the problems that that caused. Well, then we’ll be going back to those stories, because nobody knows what the future will be.
So looking forward, I think that those are a couple of the things that you could look at. And gee, I wish we were – wish it were 9:00 p.m. and we would really talk about what’s happening. But it isn’t 9:00 p.m., so I hope that gives you a little bit of context, and I’ll be happy to take questions.
MODERATOR: If you want to ask a question, please wait for the microphone and state your name and media organization.
No, right here.
QUESTION: My name is Jean-Pierre Leroy for the Voice of America, the Creole service. I have a two-part question for you. First – okay, the first question is: Why is the battleground states so important, so key for the result? And the other one: Did the ads made a difference this year?
MR. HAGSTROM: First of all, why are the battleground states so important. They’re so – the battleground states are so important because those are the ones in which the voters may go either way. We also call them swing states. We’re living in a country in which a large group of states are solidly Democratic and another group of states are solidly Republican. So in the end, the election depends on about these nine states that are – that haven’t made up their mind. So that’s why the candidates have concentrated on those.
For example, as I understand it, there has been no political – no advertising in the presidential campaign in California. Can you imagine that entire huge media market with no political advertising?
Now have the ads mattered? I don't know. Just think of all the money that’s been spent. I mean, they’re saying now about a billion dollars for each campaign, and I don't think that that counts the advertising by the outside groups.
I can’t – well, I think the thing that probably mattered the most in the campaign was the discovery of Mitt Romney talking about the 47 percent. Now, that was secretly taped, but it was shown as a news item, and then it was also used in ads. So I would say that the ads may have had a – may have made a difference.
But advertising is not as important in the presidential campaigns as it is in the campaigns for governor or the House of Representatives or the Senate. And the reason is that there’s daily news coverage of the presidential campaign. In those other campaigns, there isn’t daily coverage. So the message from the ads dominate the – what people know in those campaigns.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll go right here.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is (inaudible). My question is about --
MR. HAGSTROM: And where are you from?
QUESTION: From Armenia, so Armenia TV.
MR. HAGSTROM: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: So the question – it’s about a difficult topic, which is a forecast. So Mr. Romney voted today in Belmont, Massachusetts, and he was the governor of Massachusetts. What do you think, given the fact that Massachusetts was, as you mentioned, a solid – a blue state, who will win in this state today, Romney or Obama? And also, if you would maybe split the percentage, the chances of candidates. Is it 50-50 by percentage, or is it maybe 70-30 towards Mr. Obama? Do you have any predictions in this regard? Thank you.
MR. HAGSTROM: Oh, boy. Yeah. Well, I don't think there’s any question that Obama is going to win Massachusetts. It’s a very blue state. And remember that when Romney was running in Massachusetts he was pro-choice on abortion and was fairly liberal on gay rights, and he isn’t so liberal on each of – either of those anymore. So I don't think the people of Massachusetts will be likely to support him for President.
You want a number. So I’ve – the good thing about making these predications in the middle of the afternoon is you don’t have to live up to them. So why don’t I just say at this point I’d give Obama 51 percent nationally? How’s that? So about as close as you can get.
MODERATOR: Betty, right there.
QUESTION: Thank you. Betty Lin of the World Journal. What kind of role will Paul Ryan play during lame duck as chairman of the budget committee fiscal cliff? And also, what will his relationship be with John Boehner should he lose one of the elections today? And will we see moderate Republican candidates in the future? And also, one last question is the potential appointment of the Supreme Court justices. Thanks.
MR. HAGSTROM: What’s the question about the Supreme Court?
QUESTION: Like, about should either of the candidates be elected, what kind of different Supreme Court are we going to be expecting?
MR. HAGSTROM: Okay. Well, first of all, about Paul Ryan and the lame duck session, as the chairman of the budget committee, he plays a very important role, not just because of the chairmanship of that committee, because the thing about the budget, which was his budget passed the House of Representatives, but it never passed the Senate. So therefore, it didn’t – it isn’t a real budget. It has no power. But Paul Ryan has a following, so that is important, I mean, a following among members of the House of Representatives. And certainly even if he – even if the Romney/Ryan ticket loses tonight, just the fact that he has been the candidate for vice president enhances his standing in the Republican Party.
In terms of the lame duck session and the fiscal cliff, the most important thing that’s happened is that John Boehner has said he doesn’t think that this problem should be solved in the lame duck. It’s too big a problem. Now, I’m working on a story, that’s going to come out later this afternoon in my Hagstrom Report that I write about agriculture, that points out that the expectation is there will be between 75 and 80 new members of the House of Representatives. And that is not because there’s going to be a big party shift, that’s because so many people have retired, some people got defeated in their primaries, and also new seats have been created.
So on one level, I could see a push to do lots in the lame duck, simply because when these new people come in, they’re going to have a learning curve. They’re going to have to be educated about the issues, and so I think it’s going to get – be hard to do things right away, unless they are willing to take direction from the House leadership. And maybe John Boehner is hoping that they will. If they’re young and green, maybe they’ll be more likely to take his orders, because he has a very hard time running the House of Representatives with his split Republican Party.
I – you asked several – on the Supreme Court justices, I can’t name names, but the main difference is the question of whether the justices are pro-choice on abortion or right-to-life types. And of course, if Obama is elected, the presumption is that they will be pro-choice; they would support Roe v. Wade if a challenge comes up, and on the Republican side, the opposite. But of course, the thing about Supreme Court justices is that they’re unpredictable. I mean, just look at John Roberts. The Republicans are furious with him for holding – for upholding the Obamacare law. So that’s – it’s always hard to predict exactly what Supreme Court justices will do.
MODERATOR: Right here.
QUESTION: One of my questions was whether there would be any moderate Republicans (inaudible).
MR. HAGSTROM: Oh, moderate Republicans. Well, I think if Romney loses, the right wing of the party is going to want to move the party farther to the right. The difficulty with moderates in the Republican Party now is that so many of them have left. They’ve either become independents or they have become Democrats, or they’ve died. So it’s hard for that party to move.
But I’ll tell you when a political party moves is when it gets tired of losing. And if you look at the Democratic Party from 1972, when George McGovern was the nominee, they didn’t really get serious about changing themselves, moving to the center, until Bill Clinton was running. We did have the Carter presidency, but that was something of an accident because of Watergate and the fact that Nixon had been – had left office, and the people would not forgive Gerald Ford for pardoning Nixon. And so then Carter was in for four years. But then – by the time that Clinton was running, the Democrats were really sick of being out of power, and they were determined to have a more appealing message. And that would be a question of when the Republicans reach that point.
MODERATOR: Right here.
QUESTION: Hi. (Inaudible) from (inaudible) Times, India. Going forward, if Obama wins tonight or tomorrow morning, whichever, whenever there is an outcome --
MR. HAGSTROM: Yeah. Or in the next few days.
QUESTION: Or the next few days. (Laughter.) Will he have an easier time with the Congress this time, this term? Because the last term was tough for him. Do you see that relationship change in the next term? Thank you.
MR. HAGSTROM: I don’t think a president ever has an easy time with Congress. But the way that the Republicans have acted in the last two years has been unusual. I would not say that Obama had an easy time with the Congress in the first two years that he was in office.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MR. HAGSTROM: Yeah, but then the Democrats were in charge. But still you have this competition between the Congressional members of Congress and the White House over who was in charge. And that – and you got into these battles over how big the stimulus package should be, how Obamacare should be constructed, so I don’t think it’s ever easy. But what you’re asking is about is this extreme relationship.
There is another thing that can happen in politics and in government, and that is that members of Congress decide they want to govern. And when they do that, they do reach compromises. When they start to think about their legacy, they want to think about, “Well, what will historians remember about what bills I wrote or what I supported? How will I go down in history?”
One of the frustrations that even the Democrats had with Teddy Kennedy was that he considered himself a Senator first and a politician second. And sometimes he did compromises with the Republicans on education policy, on healthcare policy, that some of the Democrats didn’t like. But he wanted to govern, and if people in Congress decide they want that – but I also have to say President Obama is not the most attentive person to Congress. He – there is no sense that he really loves the give-and-take of members of Congress. If you really want a sense of all of that, go read Robert Caro’s latest book on Lyndon Johnson. That shows you really a president working with Congress, going back and forth, making sure a bill gets through, inviting them down to the White House for lunch, cajoling them, doing all of that. That is not Barack Obama. He is a different person.
MODERATOR: Right here.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is John Lindon (ph). I work for Africa #1 in Paris, France. Let’s say Romney win tonight, and knowing that he has changed his view on almost every single issue, how will a Romney presidency look like, as far as the message he will be delivering towards American and even to other chief of – head of state? Like in the national level, he said he going to repeal Obamacare on day one. Will he say – will he change his message like not repealing Obamacare, or when he comes to Russia or Iran, he has different message at different time? What will be the message Romney will be delivering to the world?
MR. HAGSTROM: It’s very hard to tell exactly what Romney’s message would be as president, because as you said, he has said things at different ends of the political spectrum. But on Obamacare, first of all, I want to note, he cannot repeal Obamacare. Obamacare would have to be repealed by the Congress. And with the Senate in Democratic hands, that is very unlikely. At the same time, and there – nobody is thinking that the Republicans are going to take control of the Senate, so I watched this weekend and I haven’t read or found a single analyst who thinks that they’ll get the seats that they need.
The other part of – on Obamacare is that, of course, it was Romney who put the health – a similar healthcare program into law in Massachusetts. So there is a kind of behind the scenes assumption that he is not going to want to get rid of everything, and it would be a protracted battle.
On the other issues, the only thing I can say is that you have to look and see who he appoints to the Cabinet, what signals those Cabinet appointments give him, but – give his administration. But we’ll just have to see. But we go through this always with every new president. It isn’t that unusual to not know what the president’s policies are going to be right after the election.
MODERATOR: Right there.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. This is Yasmin Sataniya (ph) from (inaudible) daily newspaper at Egypt. On foreign policy, you’ve just mentioned that it would be important to wait and see who is going to – Romney is going to be cooperating with, if he will win tonight. My question is: Do you expect any extent of influence that is going to be posed by the neocons or Bush’s advisors, the advisors of President Bush, in the Romney’s administration on foreign policy? Thank you.
MR. HAGSTROM: Well, I think the guiding factor in foreign policy is that the United – that the American people are war weary. So it doesn’t matter who is in office, whether it’s Obama or Romney, the appetite for more interventions is – I don’t think is there. The neocons will definitely be pushing. One of the hard parts about predicting what Romney would do on foreign policy is that he’s been a governor; he doesn’t have any background in this. He doesn’t – it’s so much that he doesn’t have a background, he doesn’t have a record. So it’s very hard to tell.
We faced the same situation really with George Bush and you could say with Obama also when they came into office. A great deal of foreign policy, however, doesn’t change – I mean in the sense that the issues, the problems, the problem parts of the world don’t change. The – and I’m sure you know that from all of your reporting. So they still have to deal with the same problems, and I would say that the ability of the United States to influence these events is not as strong as it was when the United States was so dominant and other countries were so much poorer. But as other countries get richer, they are less dependent on the actions of other countries.
MODERATOR: Last question, right here.
MR. HAGSTROM: Well, we have to take two. This one and the one at the back. Okay. (Laughter.) I’ll talk – I won’t talk long.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you so much. My name is Sonja Bertina (ph) with (inaudible) Mexico. I was wondering, because you said before that the Congresspeople basically do what the U.S. population tell them to do, regarding bipartisancy and collaboration, which is basically don’t do anything that the other party wants to.
MR. HAGSTROM: Right.
QUESTION: But it still – it seems to me that both candidates acknowledge the fact that collaboration actually is pretty important. And we saw that after Sandy hit the east coast with Obama and Chris Christie side to side, and the President of the United States regaining momentum with that kind of collaboration message. And also Mitt Romney going back into states, into a political arena, and actually talking about collaboration again. So I wonder if how much of collaboration need or a collaborative – I don’t know – like how much do you feel that the U.S. population or the U.S. people feel that the collaboration in the Congress is really a strong need, something that needs to be pushed forward in order to get legislation through? I don’t know if my question is well explained, but --
MR. HAGSTROM: No, you have. I actually want to shift my comment a little bit because, to some degree, I think what these voters on the left and right don’t want – they don’t want bipartisan rhetoric. They want them to stand on one side of the abortion issue or the other side or on other issues too. A lot of times when it really comes to very serious legislation that the public doesn’t understand – I mean, tax policy, for example, or trade policy – you know we did finalize three trade agreements in the last two years, so it isn’t like there can never be cooperation, and it would be very surprising to me if we do go off the fiscal cliff. So the Congress does cooperate, except when they think that they’re going to have to pay a political price for it.
So I think you can still see cooperation and collaboration and – but now – yes, now we will – you have mentioned Hurricane Sandy. There are already people – I’m getting the emails already from people saying, “In the lame duck session, they have to pass more money to rebuild the Northeast.” And of course, this is something where Mitt Romney said, “Oh, we shouldn’t be doing this. They can do it locally.” But in the whole history of the country, we have never been able to do that. That is when you need the resources of the federal government. And I’ve had – I mean, when you talk about Chris Christie, there are people who say Chris Christie cooperated with Obama because, first of all, he knows he needs federal money for the rebuilding of New Jersey. Secondly, he needs to get reelected in two years, and that is going to depend a lot on the rebuilding. And third, he wouldn’t mind running for president in 2016, and he can’t do that if Mitt Romney is president. So you can see all sorts of reasons for collaboration there.
One things though that I wonder about on this issue is when you get to the – when we get into this about Hurricane Sandy and it being in the Northeast, it’s so blue, and the House is so red. Are they going to be willing to vote for aid for the Northeast? But it will be very important to remember that the Northeast voted for aid for Hurricane Katrina, which was in the South. So we’ll see. That’s always been the way it’s been before. You always vote for – and I’ll take that last question.
MODERATOR: Quick. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you very much --
MR. HAGSTROM: I promise that I’d be done – it’s three minute before 3:30. I promise I won’t go over.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for the possibility. My name is (inaudible), World Business Press Online, Washington. My question is: One of the key – one of the scenarios that is going to be discussed in the race right now is the scenario that Obama and Romney have the same number of electorates – same number of votes, that (inaudible) the House will decide about the future president, and that the scenario is then there is a Republican president, a Democratic VP or vice-versa. How could these scenario influence the (inaudible) development in Washington, economical changes? And also, at the same time, how likely is going to happen this tonight or in another days? Thank you very much.
MR. HAGSTROM: Well, I still think it’s very unlikely that this is going to go to the House of Representatives. That would be, obviously, a really incredible development, and I have to say that I have – since I have not thought about that, I can’t answer the rest of your questions. So. Anyway. Thank you very much. So good seeing you again.
MODERATOR: Thank you. And our next briefing is going to be at 3:45 about the next Congress. You should’ve saved some of the questions for the next briefer. (Laughter.)
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