What To Expect From 2012 State Of The Union

Guests

Ron Elving, senior Washington editor, NPR
Peter Robinson,
former speech writer to President Ronald Reagan
Paul Glastris,
former speech writer to President Bill Clinton

President Barack Obama delivers his third State of the Union speech in the House chambers Tuesday night. In his 2012 address, he is expected to focus on jobs and the government's efforts to boost the economy and reduce economic inequality.

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Tomorrow night, President Barack Obama will walk into the House chamber, smiling and shaking hands, and deliver one of the great set pieces of American political life, the annual State of the Union message.

He speaks to a divided chamber, where Republicans control the House and Democrats the Senate and does so as a vulnerable incumbent in a deeply partisan political climate. It's a grand opportunity to deliver a political message or a chance to propose programs and legislations that might draw support from both sides of the aisle.

So what should the president's goal be tomorrow night? Any message will, of course, be political. Should he, though, propose programs that might actually have a chance of being enacted, or should he continue to emphasize his differences with congressional Republicans?

Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, Canadian views of the Keystone XL pipeline on the Opinion Page this week. But first, the State of the Union message. Former presidential speechwriters Paul Glastris and Peter Robinson join us in a few minutes, but we begin with NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving here in Studio 3A. And as always, Ron, thanks very much for coming in.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Neal.

CONAN: And as usual, we've been given some considerable hints on what to expect.

ELVING: Yes, we expect the president to be pretty blatantly political. He will, of course, phrase everything that he says in terms of what we can do together, the president and the Congress, the Republicans and Democrats alike in the Congress. But I think the expectation is, quite broadly, quite generally, that the Congress will be resistant, particularly the Republicans in the House. And as a result, the president is essentially setting the table for a presidential campaign.

Last month, about seven weeks ago, December 6, in Osawatomie, Kansas, the president gave a speech in which he essentially adopted the campaign platform of Teddy Roosevelt back a century ago and essentially said that it's time for a more progressive approach and that we need to address income inequality, and I think we're going to hear echoes of that.

The president has actually referred to his State of the Union speech tomorrow night as a bookend to his Osawatomie, Kansas speech of December 6. I just love saying Osawatomie.

CONAN: I was corrected by somebody who said it was Osawatomie, so whatever it is, it's still a lot of fun to say.

ELVING: Not far from where I grew up in Kansas, so...

CONAN: Oh, so I'll defer to you then.

ELVING: My folks said Osawatomie.

CONAN: OK, there have been also what - the word, I gather, is prebuttal.

ELVING: Yes, the prebuttal from John Boehner, the House speaker and leader of the Republicans in the House, some days, has been...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ELVING: ...that the president's plan to be combative is, quote, pathetic. And I think we're going to see a pretty rough reception for the president's clearly partisan approach tomorrow night.

Now, again, no one's going to come right out and use these terms, probably, on television on Tuesday night. What you'll hear the president say is that we need to work together to create jobs. We need to get the economy back up where it wants to be, where it needs to be. And he will speak in terms of all Americans and bringing everyone together.

But anticipating what the Republican response is likely to be to that, he will also be ready to talk tough and be ready to suggest that he's going to take his case over the heads of Congress, to the American people. It's not hard to take your case over the heads of Congress right now because the heads of Congress, at least in the Gallup poll, are lower than they have ever been.

CONAN: The president's polls are not so great either, better than Congress's, but not so great either. Does he not risk being - saying what we pay you for, Mr. President, is to help us out, to get things enacted, to make changes. Why are you campaigning for president? It's only January.

ELVING: That's right, and we'll hear a lot of the president being more interested in keeping his own job than in helping all the millions of Americans who don't have one. And those are all good arguments, if you will, or at least they're good rhetorical thrusts, not necessarily the same thing as arguments. But the two sides have really been locked in this wrestling match for many months already.

We're going to go right back into the payroll tax cut debate that was so difficult and debilitating and ugly in December, just before Christmas, right up to the brink of Christmas. We're going to be talking about whether or not to continue the payroll tax cut the people have gotten used to in recent months, whether or not to extend payroll - or rather unemployment benefits for people who are out of work.

And the Republicans are going to try to put the emphasis on creating more jobs rather than taking care of people who are unemployed directly through something like unemployment benefits, and that's a real argument, that's a real economic, political argument.

We've heard it joined on the hustings of the Republican campaign, the Republican contest to get the nomination against Barack Obama, and we'll hear the president weighing in on that argument again tomorrow night.

Even tonight, we will hear again the four remaining Republican candidates for that nomination hashing over that point and talking a lot about jobs when they have their debate in Tampa, Florida.

CONAN: We will hear, as we mentioned, some of the Republican points. The Democrats will say wait a minute, don't you remember that statement, my goal is to make sure that President Barack Obama is a one-term president and that the Republicans have done everything possible to block anything, as much as they could, to block any achievement by the president to that end?

ELVING: Well, that statement, of course, was made by Mitch Daniels about a year ago, Mitch Daniels - excuse me, not Mitch Daniels.

CONAN: Mitch McConnell.

ELVING: I'm thinking ahead to tomorrow night's response, the Republican response to be given by Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor. But the statement that you just quoted was made by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, just about a year ago, in response to the 2010 election, and also in talking about what we could expect from this Congress, the 112th Congress.

And in fact, the House of Representatives, which is Republican-controlled, has been much more of a problem for the president than the Senate, but when you look at the Senate, we still have scores and scores of judges waiting for their confirmation. We still have a fight over the confirmation of lots of executive appointments. The president has gone to using a controversial, constitutionally questionable device of making appointments in recess time.

He says he's perfectly on good constitutional grounds doing that. Republicans say no. We're probably going to see that hashed out in the courts. So they're at loggerheads with the Senate too, even though the Senate is nominally under Democratic control.

CONAN: Though it takes - there are 53 people who meet with the Democrats, there are a couple of independents in there, but it takes 60 votes, pretty much, to get anything significant done in the Senate. So there's a majority but not a workable majority, and of course a Republican majority, 25 seats in the House of Representatives.

ELVING: That's right, and in the House, simple majorities can rule. So in the House, the majority party is really in charge, whereas in the Senate, it's arguable that the Democrats, with just 51 seats plus the two independents as you mentioned, barely even have nominal control. About all they can do is choose the chairs of the committees.

CONAN: So what should the president's goal be tomorrow night - 800-989-8255 - to try to reach out across bipartisan lines, to go for legislation that might have a chance of being enacted? Or should it be a political speech aimed at his re-election? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. We say the latter with the understanding that any speech the president gives in these circumstances is going to be aimed at his re-election, but you get what I mean.

Let's see if we can begin with Steve, and Steve's on the line with us from Eureka in California.

STEVE: Yes, I'd just like to say the Republicans are running on the fact that Obama hasn't been able to do anything, and yet their official policy for the past couple years has been to block anything he's tried to do to help the American people or create jobs. And now they want to get elected because they've successfully blocked the president.

You know, I don't think that's right. And then also, I think Obama should say about Citizens United that the Supreme Court basically put Washington, D.C. up for sale and that those five Supreme Court members committed treason.

CONAN: Treason is a harsh word. Treason is in the Constitution. Treason requires the death penalty.

STEVE: (Unintelligible) system? I mean to sell our democracy to corporations?

CONAN: Treason? Treason? There's a disagreement here. Treason?

STEVE: Well, my question is, what court would try them?

CONAN: Well, no court. It's not treason. That's the reason. Steve, thanks very much for the phone call, appreciate it. Citizens United, of course, the Supreme Court decision that said political donations are a form of free speech. As long as they're not directly to candidates you can say anything you want. And it's interesting, the members of the Supreme Court, at least many of them, we don't know how many, but many of them are expected to be on-hand as the president delivers his speech, Ron Elving.

ELVING: Probably most of them. That would be typical. They don't all come. They don't have to come. But it's a moment of honor in the federal government, in the national government, and the Cabinet shows up, all but one member who has to sort of stay out so as to maintain the line of succession.

CONAN: But described as the person who picked the long straw.

ELVING: That's right. And virtually every member of Congress comes. We've got some members of Congress who can't come. Mark Kirk, the freshman senator from Illinois, has just had a stroke this weekend, seems to be recovering and going to recover but won't be there. Gabby Giffords, who is of course recovering from that gunshot wound that went through her head a year ago, and she's made a miraculous recovery, but not to the point where she wants to run for re-election.

She did make a miraculous return to the floor of the House last August. But we expect most everyone to be there, and by the way, an organization called No Labels, which is working to overcome partisanship in American politics, a tall order, and they have apparently persuaded 180 members of Congress, just about a third of the Congress, House and Senate together, to sit with a member of the other party on Tuesday night.

Now, they did a little of this last year in part as a salute to the moment after Gabby Giffords was shot. Now they're going to try to renew that this year, something like 180 members willing to sit with someone from the other party. I think that's a nice touch. It doesn't necessarily change anyone's vote, but at least you don't have quite so much of this sense of, you know, one-half of the entire chamber, you know, being tastes great and the other half being less filling and the two of them competing with each other, standing up and sitting down and one cheering when the other doesn't cheer and so on.

That gets a little mannered and certainly emphasizes the partisanship.

CONAN: Ron Elving, thanks, as always, for your time.

ELVING: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving, with us here in Studio 3A. And we're joined now by two former presidential speechwriters. Peter Robinson, who wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan; his memoir is called "How Ronald Reagan Changed my Life"; he's a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and joins us from a studio there on the Stanford University campus. Nice to have you back.

PETER ROBINSON: Pleasure to be back for our annual speechfest, Neal.

CONAN: Paul Glastris is with us here in Studio 3A. He wrote speeches for Bill Clinton. He's editor-in-chief now of the Washington Monthly. Nice to have you back, Paul.

PAUL GLASTRIS: Pleasure to be here.

CONAN: And Peter Robinson, we just have a few seconds before we have to go to break, but briefly, how does a State of the Union change in a re-election year?

ROBINSON: Oh, in the White House - I'm sure Paul will feel this as well - when you're going into re-election, it's the election that's in everybody's mind, practically down to the people who sweep up the floor at night. And if anything, you have to work against the feeling that you're writing this speech to take down your opponent.

But by now the White House will know that one - it's going to be Gingrich or Romney, and the writers in a certain sense will have to work against that. Paul will, I think, agree with me at least on this much, that the president will need to be presidential. It is a State of the Union address, after all, an in an election year you have to work against the obvious political impulses.

CONAN: We'll find out whether Paul agrees after we come back from a short break. So stay with us. We're talking about the State of the Union. What should the president's goal be when he walks into the House chamber tomorrow night? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution says the president shall from time to time give to the Congress information on the state of the union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall deem necessary and expedient. That State of the Union message comes tomorrow night, when President Obama speaks to a joint meeting of Congress just after 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

If his previous addresses are any indication, expect him to talk for a little over an hour. So what should the president's goal be tomorrow night? Propose programs that might have a chance of being enacted or continue to emphasize his differences with congressional Republicans? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Our guests: Peter Robinson, who wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan; and Paul Glastris, who did the same for Bill Clinton, he's now editor-in-chief of Washington Monthly. The same question to you that we put to Peter Robinson just before the break: How does a re-election year change the State of the Union message?

GLASTRIS: Every State of the Union is political. It'll be, as Peter said, it'll be - the pressure will be more for this year, and - but every president is also thinking about his place in history, not just a re-election but what can I get done, what points on the board can I put down in this next year, or in the case of a re-election year, what can I put forth as a platform for my re-election that, were I to win, I can then govern on and put points on the board and move the country?

So the mix of desire to legitimately get something done and desire to win an election is often hard to discern.

CONAN: So the audience is not just the members of Congress seated in front of him, not just the American people listening who may be voting come November, to some degree it's the future and to some degree history.

GLASTRIS: And that's right, and it's also - remember the State of the Union is the blueprint for the government for the next year or, in the case of a re-election year, for the next four years.

CONAN: Four years should he be re-elected.

GLASTRIS: So these are marching orders to his government, marching orders to all the people that work for him, marching orders to Democrats throughout the country. Here's what we want to accomplish. Here are the things we want to do that cohere into a theme and a message. We've got a long-term goal here, and in a sense the government will be feeding off that State of the Union for ideas, for formulations for the rest of the year.

CONAN: And Peter Robinson, it's - there is often an over-arching theme. There is also often a laundry list.

ROBINSON: Right, I would advise - I'd advise him to avoid the laundry list. Actually, in tone he could not do better than the YouTube preview of the speech that the White House released to Obama - people can see it by going to YouTube and typing in Obama State of the Union, two minutes and 20 seconds. He is calm. He's dignified. He's humorous - beautiful.

To me, as a Republican, alarmingly beautiful but just pitch perfect. And then as to substance, you know, I found that Osawatomie speech, or for - the Osawatomie for folks in Kansas, for Neal, Osawatomie - I found that Osawatomie speech a very impressive document.

As a - I disagree with most of what he said, but he rooted his view of politics, it's a governing philosophy. It explains what he believes happened in 2008, what led to the financial crisis, but much more. It goes deeply into American history, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt.

It's a historical argument for the progressive impulse in American politics, and in my judgment, when we've got effectively a deadlocked government, the voters elected Barack Obama one year, and two years later they elected Republicans to the House, major legislation will not get enacted, and everybody knows it, the greatest service Barack Obama could do to himself politically, but much more important for the country, is to start a clean debate.

And he has an argument in that Osawatomie speech. I would love to see him make it to the nation as a whole tomorrow evening.

CONAN: And Paul Glastris - we'll get to calls in just a minute - but Paul Glastris, that speech was said to mark a shift away from the chief compromiser to the populist, the man running for re-election.

GLASTRIS: I would say progressive, right? It was rooted in the progressive tradition more than the populist tradition. But as Peter said, it was a - he put forth a modern philosophy of progressive government. This is something he'd not done in the past.

He, as everyone knows, ran on someone who was going to unite the country and get beyond partisanship. That's not now where he's at or where the country's at. He is, I think, setting out his vision of how our relationship with government and government's role in our lives. And we are going to have this grand debate.

CONAN: Let's get some more callers in on the conversation. Let's go to Ethan(ph) calling from San Francisco.

ETHAN: Oh hey, I guess the key thing for me, I guess, you know, on paper I would be a Republican, but really in practice it just, it seems to have abandoned - the party seems to have abandoned anything I believe. Really the thing I think Barack Obama needs to pull off right now is a detailed, very clear and bold vision, and in particular I think the one thing that I find across this spectrum of folks that I know that no one can really get past, is that an industrialized world, we're just absolutely at the bottom in terms of high-speed rail and in terms of the manufacturing of such things.

It's absolutely viable to bring high-speed rail manufacturing to the United States. If you look at the movement of automobile manufacturers like Hyundai coming back, the projected costs of oil and such things, make this kind of manufacturing viable here, and it really is a limitless amount of construction jobs to put in such a system.

Before he came in in 2008, we heard talk of a transcontinental high-speed rail system. You know, in a certain way, it really comes down to switching subsidies more than anything. Airlines are basically...

CONAN: I'm hearing your argument, Ethan, but let's get some response. Peter Robinson, since 2010, when Republican governors took office in Florida and in New Jersey, I think it was the year before that in New Jersey, we've seen both of them reject federal funds to build high-speed rail projects.

ROBINSON: And we're having this debate right out here in California. It's been one of the dominate items in the news here in California. The price - so I don't know about New Jersey and Florida, but here in California, every time somebody looks at it again, the price seems to double. It's just fantastically expensive.

But the notion, I - the caller is on to something fundamental, I believe, in this notion that somehow or other, we are slipping behind and farther behind and farther behind. And Obama - again I give him credit. This Osawatomie speech, he had this central line, which he repeated in the preview tape which is on YouTube: This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.

Boy, has he got that right. I just - that strikes me as a line that will resonate, that will just hit everybody right in the stomach, that people do feel that. And as I say, at that Osawatomie speech, he laid out a serious philosophy for progressive governance, and I'd be very happy if in 2012 we had a - Barack Obama on one side, he begins the argument tomorrow evening, and then the Republican nominee answering it, that would be very good for the country.

This is a - I think people do sense that this is a more than usually momentous election. A great debate would be a good thing to have.

CONAN: And will projects like high-speed rail, Paul Glastris, be a central element of the president's speech, do you think?

GLASTRIS: Well, a word in favor of the laundry list, a laundry list is another word for actual policies, things that he wants to get done. And they always weigh down the speech, in a way, but it's what people want to here. They want to - it's good to know what the themes are and the philosophies, but people need something to latch onto.

I don't know that it's going to be high-speed rail. The president has more or less moved beyond high-speed rail and is funding all kinds of other rail projects, but something on advanced manufacturing, to bring manufacturing back in the country, something on dealing with the housing, the glut of housing, something on the cost of college. I can imagine very specific policies in those regards, and if he doesn't do that, I think it would be a problem.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Ethan. Here's an email from Tristan(ph) in Apple Valley, Minnesota: I think the president should list his own ideas and observations and stop acting like a wounded puppy. We know the GOP won't give him the time of day, so he may as well stand on his convictions. He should call out McConnell and Boehner and tell them to tone it down because they're not helping matters.

And Peter Robinson, when they come out before the speech - they, I'm talking about Speaker Boehner - and says the president is pathetic, yes it's a soundbite on Fox News Sunday, but, well, is that what we're going to be expecting in terms of the reaction, do you think?

ROBINSON: Well, you certainly won't get that from Mitch Daniels. Mitch Daniels, who will be offering the rebut - the prebuttal goes to Boehner, and the rebuttal, they've decided, will go to Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana. He is smart, sophisticated, by the way, writes all his own material - speechwriters gnash their teeth when they hear that - Mitch Daniels isn't going to make the...

The problem - I understand, Speaker Boehner is frustrated, and he feels that some of the bargaining techniques that the White House is engaged in have been pathetic, but he's wrong to call - the president of the United States, you don't call the president pathetic, and particularly you don't call a president who is, as this preview tape on YouTube, I'll mention it yet again, indicates energized for this moment.

He's not pathetic. He's at the top of his game.

CONAN: Let's go next to Lynn(ph), Lynn with us from St. John's in Florida.

LYNN: Hi, thank you. I'd like to see the president make a new, all-out push for renewables, particularly for the case of creating lots of new good-paying jobs. For instance, Germany's making a new push for offshore wind energy. It's already been a leader in solar, even though it's at the high northern latitudes, it subsidizes it greatly. The only drawback I see is the fact that he - the energy secretary approved the Solyndra deal for 500 million, and it went bankrupt. So the Republicans obviously are going to go after him about that.

I'll just listen off the air now.

CONAN: OK. Thanks very much. The Solyndra company that went bankrupt after getting, I think, half a billion dollars in federal subsidies. Well, we've heard the green jobs mantra, it's seems, several elections in a row. Paul Glastris, would you expect another push on that?

GLASTRIS: I think he'll mention it. I think that he's made a lot of bets and spent a lot of money on a variety of green energy kind of cutting-edge things, including battery - advanced battery manufacturing. The real big jobs come from simple things, conservation, rehabbing homes to make them energy efficient. You get a tremendous number of jobs from that, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear him talk about that.

CONAN: And, Peter Robinson, one thing we've already heard from Speaker Boehner is the specifics of the XL pipeline. We're going to be talking more about that on The Opinion Page in a few minutes. But this is something he threatened to attach to must-pass legislation, and the president put the kibosh on it, at least for the time being, just last week. Do you expect that to come up?

ROBINSON: He may defend that again. I just don't quite see that that does more than - you're asking me to think like a Democrat, Neal, so...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: I'm sorry.

ROBINSON: ...the wheels, gears are just - terrible things are happening in my brain at the moment. Yeah, he may. If I - my word of advice would be, when it comes to the specifics, and Paul is right, a bit of a laundry list, but don't let it run too long. In my judgment, manufacturing, manufacturing, manufacturing. People understand making things with their hands. They understand the America that used to be in the '50s and '60s when great jobs were available in manufacturing.

So that has historical resonance. It's something people can grasp. And I believe that if you're a progressive, if you believe in a large role for the government in the economy, that's what all the economists would tell you is a place to begin. So that - Paul and I are in agreement there. I think he could and should make a lot of that.

GLASTRIS: And he's got a good story to tell, having rescued Detroit.

CONAN: And Detroit...

ROBINSON: Well, well, well, well. All right. I'll...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: I'll hem - I'll say a hem and leave it at that.

GLASTRIS: OK.

CONAN: And we'll haw later, perhaps...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: If Mr. Romney gets the nomination in the Republican Party, they can have that debate. That would be a central debate because he's made that point specifically. We're talking about tomorrow night's State of the Union message with Peter Robinson, a former speech writer for President Ronald Reagan, now a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Paul Glastris, who wrote speeches for President Bill Clinton, now editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's see if we can go to Mike, and Mike's on the line with us from Fort Myers.

MIKE: Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

MIKE: The debt debate last year got my attention where I realized that we can't pay our credit card - our monthly credit bills unless we can get more credit cards. And that really sounded an alarm for me. I would like to hear President Obama or any politician on the left, or the right, for that matter, present a budget that actually adds up. And I'm not really buying into his promise where he brags about, well, I'll stick it to the rich and give them a separate non-equal tax code so that you don't have to pay more taxes, and we can make them fund the bill.

CONAN: I'm not sure he promised that no one would have to ever pay any more taxes. But I think we get your point. And if the Osawatomie speech was persuasive, Peter Robinson, so was the Republican argument to a lot of people on just that point - the credit card.

ROBINSON: Yeah. Well, the federal government now borrows 40 cents out of every dollar that it spends, and much of that 40 cents comes from the Chinese. Who was it - Mitt Romney said that his test, if he were elected, would be, is a new program so important that it's worth borrowing money from the Chinese to pay for it? So that's it. That's sort of the fundamental attack on the progressive - the fundamental practical attack. There are principled arguments as well. So President Obama is going to have to at least in one way or another indicate some way of paying for these programs that he'll announced tomorrow night.

CONAN: Paul Glastris? Are we - excuse me, just a second. We do expect the president to come forward with a program to save some money through contraction of government, and basically to see whether Republicans will vote for it, I think.

GLASTRIS: Yeah. He's got a proposal out there to give him fast-track authority to collapse some agencies into one agency and so forth. And you can get some small beer kind of money from that. The real big money is in health care.

ROBINSON: It's still in health care. That's right.

GLASTRIS: And so I think most of what the Republicans are talking about budget cuts don't actually go at the heart of the problem, which is health care costs throughout the economy that the government then pays for. So it would be interesting to see, and I hope that we do see, the president go really deep and directly into the long-term health care cost issue.

CONAN: And I'm sorry, Mike. Go ahead.

MIKE: Yes. I've got to say, as a voter this is just rearranging chairs on the deck of sinking ship. Nobody, not on - well, OK, you've got Ron Paul, whose foreign policy I disagree with, but he's the only politician that's actually had the guts to come out with real numbers that actually add up, and this isn't necessarily a left or right thing either. The Republicans as a whole don't have the guts to do it. The president hasn't had the guts to do it. But the bottom line is - and what's funny is I'm hearing the term unsustainable being used more and more often. That's basically code word for our big fat Greek collapse, and I realize it's probably not going to happen tomorrow, but if we keep doing this, that's exactly where it goes.

CONAN: And that's getting back to those health care expenditures, which I think everybody agrees are in the long run unsustainable at the present level, but this is an argument that we may discuss philosophy over the next months before the presidential election, but I don't think anybody expects this to be worked out either in the remainder of this term or in probably the next one, do you think, Peter Robinson?

ROBINSON: No. This - well, who knows about the next one. I mean, that's, that's - I mean, in a certain sense it's a one-to-one tie. The American voters gave us Barack Obama. Two years later they changed their minds and gave us something quite different, which is a big Republican majority in the House and the Republicans picked up seats in the Senate. We need an election to break the tie. That's what - that's the way democracy works. We have great big decisions here.

Health care is the one that's driving the budget. And we need an election. So again, to me the way it works best, the way democracy works best, is when the president stands in the - at the rostrum and honestly explains his philosophy of governance and what he intends to do. And then the other side gets to answer. And for the next six, seven months, we will go back and forth and think it out.

CONAN: And we will go back and forth and think it out with you guys again in the future. Thank you so much for your time today, Peter Robinson.

ROBINSON: A pleasure, Neal. Thank you.

CONAN: And, Paul Glastris, as always, appreciate having you here in Studio 3A.

GLASTRIS: My great pleasure.

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