Appearing on Thursday's Good Morning America to discuss the recent legislative activity in Congress, ABC's Cokie Roberts managed to avoid using the word "illegal" as she recounted the failure by Senate Democrats to pass the Dream Act to provide a mechanism for the children of illegal immigrants to obtain citizenship. Framing the Senate vote as a "disappointment" for Obama, she went on to contend that the loss "certainly bodes badly for immigration."
After agreeing with host George Stephanopoulos that President Obama should be "pretty pleased" because of the "incredible" lame duck session, she continued:
The disappointment, as [President Obama] said yesterday, was the Dream Act, that piece of legislation for immigrant children who have come to this country, not by their own volition, but allowing them to go to school and the military as a path to citizenship. That failed, which certainly bodes badly for immigration, in general, because that was considered the easy one.
As she and Stephanopoulos discussed the likely difficulty of President Obama and Congress reaching a budget agreement next year, Roberts also referred to cutting taxes as "giving something away." She then seemed to convey some wishful thinking as she suggested that Republicans might decide not to be "obstructionist" if voters lavish praise on recent bipartisan "cooperation":
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And it's a lot easier, I would suspect, to get Republicans and Democrats to agree on tax cuts than it is on spending cuts.
COKIE ROBERTS: Right, right, when you're giving something away, it's easy to come together. When you're doing something hard, it's a much harder time, but, and that spending bill is going to be attached to the always difficult time of year when they have to raise the ceiling on the national debt... So there are going to be some big bumps in the road ahead. You know, George, I really think that voter response is going to tell the next Congress a lot because if people start to say, hey, we like this cooperation that we've seen over the last couple of weeks, then it becomes harder to just be obstructionist.
Below is a complete transcript of the relevant segment from the Thursday, December 23, Good Morning America on ABC:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: President Obama is even farther West. He's landed in his home state of Hawaii for his annual Christmas break with family and friends. And he left Washington with a big smile on his face, higher poll numbers, and an upbeat press conference, capping a final work day in which he ended the ban on gays serving openly in the military and secured a nuclear arms treaty with Russia. As Yunji de Nies reports from Hawaii, the President and his team took pleasure in confounding their critics, didn't they, Yunji?
YUNJI DE NIES: Good morning, George. The President definitely did have that marathon session in Washington. He is ready to start his vacation. He's a little delayed. And his trip here won't be without a few speed bumps. President Obama arrived in the middle of the night, eager to start his Hawaiian vacation, after a surprisingly productive end to the year.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If there's any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it's that we are not doomed to endless gridlock.
DE NIES: Fresh off the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the passing of the 9/11 responders bill, President Obama is starting to see a turnaround in public support. A new CNN poll shows 56 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Obama's handling of the lame duck session.
OBAMA: And I'm not naive. I know there will be tough fights in the months ahead.
DE NIES: But for now, the President will battle the elements during his vacation. Yes, the family will be staying on a luxurious, multimillion-dollar compound, but the famed Kailua beach is brown. Heavy rains caused sewage overflow. Signs warn swimmers to stay out. Plus, the murky waters tend to attract sharks.
[CLIPS OF PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT THE CONDITION OF THE BEACH]
DE NIES: All is not lost. At the Obamas' favorite shave ice stand, they're already making "snow-bamas."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE EMPLOYEE: Excited and nervous, too, at the same time. I mean, everybody's got to be on top of their game.
DE NIES: And while the forecast calls for rain, the highs will be in the upper 70s.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: It's still better than Washington, D.C.
DE NIES: At least that's what the locals think. And the President so far has no public events scheduled. We are expecting him to play a little golf and hit the beach if and when that water does clear up. But, George, the White House does remind us that, as always, this is a working vacation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Always. Okay, Yunji, thanks very much. Let's bring in Cokie Roberts now from Washington. Cokie, even with the brown water in Hawaii, the President's got to feel pretty pleased, coming out of that lame duck session.
COKIE ROBERTS: Boy, should he. It was incredible. Of course, the START agreement being the most significant victory for him and one would argue, for the country. But, you know, the big tax agreement, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and then the 9/11 responders, thanks to Jon Stewart as their chief lobbyist, getting the health bill through. The disappointment, as he said yesterday, was the Dream Act, that piece of legislation for immigrant children who have come to this country, not by their own volition, but allowing them to go to school and the military as a path to citizenship. That failed, which certainly bodes badly for immigration, in general, because that was considered the easy one.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It was considered the easy one. The President was most passionate when he was talking about that yesterday, saying don't count me out, I am a persistent man. But let's look at the pattern that was developed over this lame duck. You did, in the end, have a lot of these measures pass with overwhelming votes - the START treaty, as you mentioned, the tax cuts passed by overwhelming votes as well. But then you look at some of the others. The President having to pick and choose and create different coalitions for each piece of legislation.
ROBERTS: But, of course, that is the way you get it done, George, as you well know. And that was the sort of the puzzling thing, up until this lame duck, with this President, was that he wasn't putting together those kinds of coalitions. Now, he had a big Democratic majority. And he could just go with that. But that wasn't working for him, as we saw in the election. And so now, he's in a position where most presidents are where there are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, you know, you put together a coalition on each issue.
The big question going forward is whether Republicans will continue to cooperate when they have bigger majority in the Senate, or bigger minority in the Senate, and a majority in the House. You see some Republicans today saying, well, this isn't great, you know, now, the President's got all these victories and he's not so weakened anymore. And they don't like that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And one of the big failures of this lame duck session, they couldn't get a big budget through for all of next year. And that's really where most of the fights are going to be next year. And it's a lot easier, I would suspect, to get Republicans and Democrats to agree on tax cuts than it is on spending cuts.
ROBERTS: Right, right, when you're giving something away, it's easy to come together. When you're doing something hard, it's a much harder time, but, and that spending bill is going to be attached to the always difficult time of year when they have to raise the ceiling on the national debt, and nobody likes voting for that. So there are going to be some big bumps in the road ahead. You know, George, I really think that voter response is going to tell the next Congress a lot because if people start to say, hey, we like this cooperation that we've seen over the last couple of weeks, then it becomes harder to just be obstructionist. And right now, Congress is at its lowest level ever in public opinion, so they've got that cut out for them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're right. And as Yunji reported, voters giving the President the highest marks for the lame duck, 56 percent approval. Okay, thanks very much. I see you're already dressed for Christmas. Have a great Christmas.
-Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst for the Media Research Center