Six Years Of Talking Politics

President Obama visited California in his latest foray outside the Beltway. It's the latest in a series of political cycles Day to Day has covered since the summer of 2003.

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President Obama is in California for a second day today. After he tours an electric vehicle plant and holds a town hall meeting here in downtown Los Angeles, he'll head to Burbank for an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Juan Williams joins me now, as he does most weeks. And Juan, let me play you this clip from the president's town hall meeting yesterday in Costa Mesa. He had this to say about who's responsible for mistakes made in the bank bailout.

(Soundbite of town hall meeting)

President BARACK OBAMA: And I know Washington is all in a tizzy, and everybody's pointing fingers at each other and saying it's their fault, the Democrats' fault, the Republicans' fault. Listen, I'll take responsibility. I'm the president.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

BRAND: Well, Juan, will these words come back to haunt him when he decides to run for re-election?

JUAN WILLIAMS: Well, you can imagine that that tape is being preserved by...

BRAND: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: The Republican National Committee at this very moment, Madeleine. Yeah, I think they will say no matter what the outcome, but especially if the outcome has us in a prolonged recession that even in the midterm elections, that this will be used against Democrats to say President Obama took responsibility. Part of the refrain in Washington coming from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and others in the administration over the last week has been that they inherited a terrible crisis. And even yesterday, President Obama said, you know, my job is to make sure we fix these messes even if I didn't make it. And so the idea that he now says, no, it's my watch, I take responsibility, is a little different, and I think it is, as you put it, something that will come back to haunt him.

BRAND: Well, still, it's something that we didn't hear a lot of from President Obama's predecessor, former President Bush. And interestingly, he has a book deal now. What's he working on?

WILLIAMS: Well, the book is tentatively titled "Decision Points," Madeleine. And it's a look at how President Bush made apparently a dozen or so key decisions, including everything from going to war in Iraq to even picking Dick Cheney as his vice president. Also, how he responded both to Hurricane Katrina and to the tremendous criticism that his administration experienced for not handling it so well.

BRAND: What's your - what was your best political conversation this week, Juan?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, Madeleine, this is interesting. Given what's happening with Day to Day and NPR, I did an interview with someone who's doing a video blog about the state of the media looking back at Marshall McLuhan's book and, you know, the medium is the message and that whole way of thinking about what's going on with the media. And I think back to, you know, the years we've been together talking about news and politics and how, you know, radio is so immediate, and I think so intimate, in terms of having even political discussions. It really makes people, I think, pay attention in a way that TV can't and sometimes - unfortunately, now, we see with the demise of newspapers - in a way that newspapers can't. And we were just talking about the idea that, you know, over the last few years, we've gone through everything from the re-election in '04 to the change in the Congress from Republican to Democratic control, and it seems to me that when people have a sense that there are real human beings on the other end of all of these machinations and political games, that it's not just some stick figure, bad- guy politician loading his pockets, people have a greater sense of wanting to participate to get out and get involved. And I think that - when I think back on Day to Day and these conversations, I think about people who come up to me and said you know, I heard this on Day to Day and I heard this conversation - not always including me, sometimes you, Madeleine, Alex Chadwick, Alex Cohen and others - and just talked about how it made their political lives more real to them, made it seem as if, you know, politics comes home, comes through the radio. That's the best of NPR.

BRAND: Absolutely. Well, Juan, I really, really enjoyed our conversations over the years, and I will be tuning in to hear you on other NPR programs. So, thank you very much for all your work this program. I'm going to miss you.

WILLIAMS: Well, I'll miss you. I'll tell you, we love you, Madeleine, and God bless to you and your family. Hang in there, kid.

BRAND: Thank you. NPR news analyst Juan Williams.

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