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CBS's Dickerson Boasts Obama 'Has More Leverage' If Country Goes Off Fiscal Cliff

CBS News political director John Dickerson all but crossed his fingers on Wednesday's CBS This Morning as he forwarded the idea of letting the country go over the looming fiscal cliff so President Obama could gain the political advantage: "There is an argument for actually...letting this happen. The President gets even more leverage."

Dickerson explained that "if the so-called fiscal cliff happens, taxes go up for everybody; then, you have a conversation about – not about raising taxes, but about, then, cutting taxes." So, the President and Congress will look good for supposedly cutting taxes after raising them?

Anchor Charlie Rose brought on the CBS News political director for his take on the ongoing budget negotiations. After playing a clip of Fed Chairman Ben Bernake warning of another recession if the issue isn't resolved, Rose asked, "Where do you think we are in these discussions that are going on with Congress and with other members of the community of interested parties, including business and labor?"

Dickerson answered, in part, by referencing leftist Washington Post writer Ezra Klein's term for the "fiscal cliff":

DICKERSON: ...Everybody has been talking about what a disaster this will be. But, where we are basically is two sets of deals: one, a short-term deal to deal with...this austerity crisis...as Ezra Klein of the Washington Post calls it - that will hit us, and there's a short term deal that needs to be dealt with by the end of the year; and then, some kind of an agreement for long-term tax reform and for entitlement reform. The question is, can a short-term deal be made in which everybody is locked in, then, to that more serious process. And what I thought what was interesting about Bernanke, is he said...that everybody in Washington has to behave like adults in order to give confidence to the business community, and to allow the economy to grow.

The veteran PBS host followed up by asking about "what's the likelihood they can make that short-term deal." The former Time magazine White House correspondent replied with his "argument for actually letting his happen" answer.

Co-anchor Norah O'Donnell endorsed Dickerson's take just before ending the segment: "There's some talk about trying to do two things in two phases - at least, protect the middle class, and let the rest of the stuff go over the cliff for maximum pressure. "

The transcript of the relevant portion of the segment from Wednesday's CBS This Morning:

CHARLIE ROSE: John, let's take a look at this – what [Ben] Bernanke said in response to the fiscal crisis.

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: The worst case scenario, where the economy goes off the – the broad fiscal cliff, the – the – the largest fiscal cliff, which, according to the CBO and to our own analysis, would throw the economy into recession. I don't think the Fed has the tools to offset that.

ROSE: So, where do you think we are in these discussions that are going on with Congress and with other members of the community of interested parties, including business and labor?

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, the pressure – and that was just one more sign of pressure, as if we needed it. Everybody has been talking about what a disaster this will be. But, where we are basically is – is two sets of deals: one, a short-term deal to deal with this – basically, this austerity crisis, which –  as Ezra Klein of the Washington Post calls it - that will hit us, and there's a short term deal that needs to be dealt with by the end of the year; and then, some kind of an agreement for long-term tax reform and for entitlement reform. The question is, can a short-term deal be made in which everybody is locked in, then, to that more serious process. And what I thought what was interesting about Bernanke, is he said – you know, that everybody in Washington has to behave like adults in order to give confidence to the business community, and to allow the economy to grow.

And what's interesting is what kind of a deal can they come up with in the short term that will show that they are actually serious about dealing with these issues? There's no more of these agreements that can be made, because they just don't hold. So, that's the really interesting question, is what the reaction will be to the short-term deal that gives them the space to, then, take on the long, difficult questions of tax reform and entitlements.

[CBS News Graphic: "Fiscal Cliff Burden: Working couple ($20k-$30k): Federal tax: [up] $1423; Avg. Tax rate: [up] 5.6%; Retired couple ($30k-$40k): Federal tax: [up] $540; Avg. tax rate: [up] 1.5%; Source: Tax Policy Center"]

ROSE: And what's the likelihood they can make that short-term deal?

DICKERSON: I think there's – well, it's interesting how you read the leverage, because there's an argument that, basically, if the – if the so-called fiscal cliff happens, taxes go up for everybody; then, you have a conversation about – not about raising taxes, but about, then, cutting taxes. They would have already gone up. And the question is whether the President has a great deal more leverage. He then basically is able to say, it's because the Republicans were too stuck – that these taxes went up in the first place, and now, they don't want to raise – they don't want to lower taxes on the middle class because they're stuck on trying to keep taxes low for the wealthy. So, there is an argument for, actually, because the cliff isn't an actual cliff - because nothing will happen the day after that is catastrophic - there is an argument for actually - maybe - letting this happen. The President gets even more leverage.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Yeah. There's some talk about trying to do two things in two phases - at least, protect the middle class, and let the rest of the stuff go over the cliff for maximum pressure. John Dickerson, thank you.

DICKERSON: Thanks, Norah.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.