Thanksgiving Drama At The Dinner Table

The most intense political season in recent history is behind us. But now many families are coming together around the Thanksgiving dinner table for the first time since the elections. Slate.com's chief political correspondent John Dickerson, speaks with host Alex Cohen about how to navigate the political discussions.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

From NPR News, it's Day to Day. Later tonight, I will be hosting dinner at my house with friends I invited, which hopefully will keep the meal mellow because we all tend to see eye to eye on most things.

But not everyone is as lucky. If you find yourself sharing a table today with family or friends who don't share your political views, well, fret not. Slate.com's chief political correspondent John Dickerson has put together some ammunition to help you should the conversation turn to politics. He joins us now from his home in Washington, D.C. Hi, John.

Mr. JOHN DICKERSON (Chief Political Correspondent, Slate.com): Hello. Happy Thanksgiving.

COHEN: And to you as well. John, you have for Slate provided backup to both sides of the argument on a number of topics. Let's start off with the financial crisis. Now, let's say that your Aunt Edna is a Democrat and your cousin Joe is a Republican. What argument can each of them make over the pumpkin pie as to who's to blame for all this mess?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, let's see. For the ones who want to blame the Democrats, you can start off by saying, look, this wasn't a Republican problem. It started in the Clinton administration. In fact, the signature banking deregulation bill was signed by President Clinton. In fact, it was championed by Larry Summers, who's the incoming head of the National Economic Council for Barack Obama. So, I don't blame the Republicans in the current administration, and know, by the way, it was the Democrats who were relentlessly blind to the dangers building up at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Now, if you want to blame the Republicans in retort to that argument, you can say that, well, but the Bush and the Republicans deregulated even further. They watched a lot of these problems fester, did nothing, that Alan Greenspan, a Republican and a hero to Republicans, played a big role as well pushing the deregulation of derivatives. And then, of course, you can go to the present day and argue that Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, has had three - at least three different strategies for the bailout and none of them seems to be working. And so that might be pushed back against the argument that this is all the Democrats' fault.

COHEN: John, let's move on next to President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet. As it comes together, some folks say this is the change he promised on the campaign trail. Others say it isn't. What are some good strategies to argue here?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, those who say it hasn't changed say, well, look at all the old former Clinton administration officials, including Hillary Clinton herself. That's not change at all. The Obama folks, of course, would say, well, change starts at the top, and this will all come from President Obama, and he's just picking experienced people to carry out his change.

COHEN: You mentioned Hillary Clinton. It's expected that after the Thanksgiving holiday that Mr. Obama will formally announce her as his new secretary of state. Good idea, bad idea?

Mr. DICKERSON: It's a great idea say those who think she knows the issues, that she has this standing and strength so that she can tell him what she believes with the bark off, you know, and that she'll be a strong voice.

Of course, there are others who say terrible idea. The drama of the Clinton family will be rumbling all throughout the Obama administration. Her husband's conflict of interest will be constantly a problem, and they're the ones who would say it's a bad idea.

COHEN: John, on a personal note, I hear you have quite a few relatives coming to your house for Thanksgiving. How many?

Mr. DICKERSON: We have 22 this year.

COHEN: You are a brave man. You think there's going to be any political spats at your table?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, the entire house becomes the table with that many people, so we won't actually have room for argument. Anybody who wants to bicker will have to go outside.

COHEN: John Dickerson is the chief political correspondent for slate.com. Thanks, John, and happy Thanksgiving.

Mr. DICKERSON: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

COHEN: And now, an update to the major news story of the day. The death toll in Mumbai, India following terrorist attacks there stands at more than 100 people, including several foreign nationals from Australia and Japan. Indian commandos have been going from room to room trying to free people trapped inside two luxury hotels, Oberoi and Taj Mahal. More coming up in just a moment.

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