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NBC's Gregory and Alter Discuss Obama's 'Centrist' Legacy

In an interview aired Sunday for Meet the Press's Press Pass, host David Gregory teed up left-wing NBC political analyst Jonathan Alter to promote his new pro-Obama screed, The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies: "...you write the following: 'A set of values that had been part of the American consensus since at least the New Deal would remain in place....The United States would remain a highly partisan and often gridlocked nation, but a centrist one.' Is that the emerging legacy of this president?" [Listen to the audio]

Alter cheered the President's re-election: "I believe it is. Yeah, and that's where I think the 2012 election was so pivotal. Because it really was all on the line....You had one party, the Democrats, who were pretty close to the center, maybe a little bit left of center. And then you had another party, the Republicans, who were way out there and much more conservative than Ronald Reagan was."

In response to that assertion, Gregory lamented: "And yet, it doesn't feel like this – this war over what is the appropriate role of government in our lives and the economy has been settled."

Alter argued: "That tension won't be resolved, but what was resolved were things like ObamaCare, so the Republicans can, you know, shout all they want. They can make as much noise as they can. That ship has sailed..."

Earlier on Meet the Press, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd decried supposed Republican efforts to "sabotage" the health care law after the Obama administration was forced to delay the legislation's key employer insurance mandate.

On Press Pass, Alter happily proclaimed: "Nothing on the Republican agenda will become law before 2017 at the earliest. And as I mentioned in my book, probably not then because the demographics of the country are moving very strongly against the Republicans....a lot of what people like Paul Ryan were saying, you know, while it was a real live possibility last year, it's now a fantasy."

Appearing on the May 31 Today to promote the book, Alter gushed over Obama's "perserverance."

Here is a portion of Gregory's softball exchange with Alter, aired on NBC's Washington D.C. affiliate WRC-4:

11:32AM ET

DAVID GREGORY: This week on Press Pass, as the President faces serious second-term challenges I recently sat down with author and NBC political analyst Jonathan Altar, who's out with a new book going behind the scenes of the Obama White House and looking ahead to the President's legacy. The book is, The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies. Here's that conversation.

Jonathan, there's something from the book that struck me that is about that very title, The Center Holds. And you write the following: "A set of values that had been part of the American consensus since at least the New Deal would remain in place," talking about the President's re-election, "the country's defense of that social contract had been tested and it held and the consequence of the voters' decision in 2012 will play out for years. For all the struggles to come nothing radical would occur in government until 2017 at the earliest, and given the demographic changes at hand, probably not even then. The United States would remain a highly partisan and often gridlocked nation, but a centrist one." Is that the emerging legacy of this president?

JONATHAN ALTER: I believe it is. Yeah, and that's where I think the 2012 election was so pivotal. Because it really was all on the line. So if Obama had lost and the economy is surging again, it would have been a validation, not just of the Tea Party and Karl Rove, but of Paul Ryan's budget. And this budget by Paul Ryan's own definition was a rewriting of the American social contract. He considers those social programs that began in the New Deal to be, quote, "a hammock" that was bad for the, quote, "American character." So these are folks who wanted to go back to the pre-New Deal era, and that's why I don't think that this was sort of a classically polarized political situation. You had one party, the Democrats, who were pretty close to the center, maybe a little bit left of center. And then you had another party, the Republicans, who were way out there and much more conservative than Ronald Reagan was.

GREGORY: And yet, it doesn't feel like this – this war over what is the appropriate role of government in our lives and the economy has been settled. Because for all of the talk about the 47%, that carries forward, there are people in this country who are animated by the size and scope of government, the incompetence of government, overreach by government, with the IRS scandal, or even – and I brought this up when we were all talking after the program – you know, ObamaCare. People may not know exactly what it's going to mean for them. They're not exactly sure how it's going to be implemented, but if you're an employee in this country, you know you're paying more taxes for it, to directly subsidize people who don't have insurance. And that bothers at lot of people.

ALTER: It does. And those are all legitimate concerns. And these debates, not only are they not resolved by this election, but they go back to the founding of the republic, these debates between people who want to restrain government and those who want a more activist government. And there have been some in both parties going all the way back. So that tension won't be resolved, but what was resolved were things like ObamaCare, so the Republicans can, you know, shout all they want. They can make as much noise as they can. That ship has sailed, David, and the President has the veto pen.

Nothing on the Republican agenda will become law before 2017 at the earliest. And as I mentioned in my book, probably not then because the demographics of the country are moving very strongly against the Republicans. Now, I think they'll do well in 2014 because those are low-turnout elections, and as we saw in 2010, when they won overwhelmingly, the Republicans did, and then they redrew the maps in state capitols because to the Democrats' misfortune it was a census year. So they redrew those maps. And even though Democrats got 55% of the vote for the House of Representatives, they lost, they lost the House. And that wouldn't change any time probably before 2020.

So I'm not suggesting that this was a route by liberal Democrats, but people do tend to forget that these elections have consequences, that's why we're probably going to get immigration reform and why a lot of what people like Paul Ryan were saying, you know, while it was a real live possibility last year, it's now a fantasy. And that's a context that people need to understand.

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