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Bill Moyers: What Election 2012 Reveals About America and Its Shifting Racial Faultlines

Moyers speaks with two leading political observers about race and economic inequality in America.

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BILL MOYERS: Let me ask both of you if you think President Obama is going to be able or committed to the changes that you think are important? He's already being pointed in different directions. Here's a story by David Ignatius, a very respected writer for "The Washington Post" saying, "Mr. Obama, take big risks, get it done. A successful second term is less about ideology than results."

This column by William Saletan on  Slate who says, "Cheer up, Republicans, you should be happy. You're going to have a moderate Republican president for the next four years. His name is Barack Obama. He's in the same mold," says William Saletan, "As Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and he stands where the GOP used to stand and will be standing once again." Now, if you can see the tensions there that people are reading into and out of Obama.

REIHAN SALAM: I have a quite different perspective from William Saletan. I think that actually President Obama in passing his health law really took a big gamble. Because he really wanted to complete the project that he saw as having been started, some could say 100 years ago, some could say with LBJ with Medicare and Medicaid, it was very important to him. And so even when it was very clear that he was suffering some political consequences he thought, "It is crucial that we complete the welfare state in this way--"

BOB HERBERT: I agree with that.

REIHAN SALAM: "--and continue to build and enhance it." And I also think that frankly the model of the Affordable Care Act is not in my view very sustainable and I think that over time you're likely to see progressives work to introduce new modes of cost containment that are going to involve a somewhat heavier hand from government.

You're going to see for example the reintroduction of the idea of a public option for folks under 65. I think that what you're going to see is a deepening of the progressive project under President Obama who has a tremendous amount of leverage right now. Now, that happens to be something that I don't favor. I don't think that that's the right way for--

BILL MOYERS: Bob does. Bob doesn't think he's going to be progressive enough, right?

BOB HERBERT: That's exactly right.

REIHAN SALAM: Right, and perhaps that’s true from Bob's perspective. I don't think the President Obama's views are identical to Bob's. But I tend to think that--

BOB HERBERT: That's an understatement.

REIHAN SALAM: Yeah, but I do think that Barack Obama--

BILL MOYERS: You've been quite critical of Obama during the first three years.

REIHAN SALAM: But I think that Barack Obama is very much a progressive. I do not think that he's an Eisenhower Republican or a Gerald Ford Republican. I think that he's someone who really does want to deepen a larger social transformation. I'm also somewhat, I also believe that he really does believe in this idea that public investment is what will likely grow the economy.

BOB HERBERT: When I grew up President Obama would have been considered a moderate Republican I suppose. Maybe somebody would have said he's a liberal Republican and I might have taken issue with it. I think that we're, you know, with President Obama we know what we've got. And I expect more of the same. I think that he's going to try and make a deal with the Republicans on this fiscal cliff thing.

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